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Putting Your Mind at Ease About Color

By: Gregory Hill

Part of the foundation of great printing of all types is attention to process control and as an adjunct to this, the use of color management techniques. The objective is to provide consistent brand integrity regardless of the output whether it be a 1:1 Variable Data driven marketing piece that is printed digitally on the HP Indigo, a web offset printed magazine insert, or large format graphics for both out-of-home and visual-merchandising.

Below is our top 10 list which we use to create what we believe is the best cross-process color management platform in the country.


Underlying Color science: Our main emphasis or methodology is to calibrate our press or proofing system based on spectrophotometry (colorimetric data) for gray balance instead of traditional densitometric (dot gain/TVI) methods. More simply put, we make our main judgments based on the appearance of gray as opposed to mainly density and dot gain.

Our fundamental approach respects ISO standards, which are the foundation of both GRACoL (North American Standard) and the ECI (European Color Initiative). This awareness is important for consistent global branding.

Sandy Alexander prints with an ink thickness defined by specific measurements based on the substrate and technology being used rather than just hitting goal densities. This is possible because we respect a fixed highlight to midtone contrast range. This highlight to midtone contrast is specified by G7 and is measured in-line by System Brunner Instrument Flight, the worlds leading provider of systems for process control, quality assurance and standardization in the graphics industry.

We have profiled (and continue to profile) various substrates and ink set combinations. We have a “library” of these profiles. Profiles allow us to simulate (with great accuracy) our output devices with our proofing systems.

These same profiles provide us with a method for adjusting files for a specific project. We are able to modify files to be reproduced on uncoated paper as well as other substrates as if they were on a top quality gloss coated sheet. This is being done colorimetrically, not just with curves.

We are color space agnostic. We work in rgb, cmyk and Lab to achieve a desired result and then convert using a profile specific to the output device, substrate and ink set, rather than with a default standard conversion.

We pay much more attention to the black printer than is typical. Because we know that black strengthens the appearance of the dark colors in images, we greatly value and control gcr on a project specific basis (through profiles). We also use gcr in our concern for gray balance and maintaining neutrals. Again, this is unusual. Most printers simply use a standard conversion for most everything.

Screening: While we did not invent the halftone screening that we use, we have spent a great deal of time optimizing the selection. One of the main reasons we have chosen the brand of prepress equipment we use is due to the quality and options of screening available. Great care is taken selecting the type of screening (Paragon, Concentric, Organic) and ruling. Most shops run the same screening for most everything they print.

Our prepress proofing is controlled via colorimetry (profiles, not just curves). We also show proofs (in many cases) on the actual stock using the identical screening and resolution as is on the plate. We offer halftone dot proofing as well as inkjet proofing.

NONE OF THE ITEMS LISTED ABOVE WORK SUFFICIENTLY WITHOUT PROCESS CONTROL. We are steadfast in our dedication to maintaining proper calibration of equipment. Consistency is only achievable with process control.