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Need To Know

Colour Management

Although the term ‘ISO’ is thrown about a lot, it is important to know what it means and how companies can benefit. Catherine Carter looks at some of the proposed standards shaping this sector

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ISO: what’s it all about?

When creating a corporate identity, many argue that the single most powerful element is colour. It registers instantly—IBM’s ‘big’ blue, UPS’s brown, Coca-Cola’s red and the yellow arches for McDonalds. Just a flash of these is all we need to generate that flicker of recognition. With colour such a pivotal element of a brand’s identity, standards are becoming increasingly important for operations to maintain consistency and accuracy across print production processes, products and substrates.

We are all well aware of the wide adoption of ISO12647-2 as companies create a transparent colour management process for quality assurance as well as another way to maintain customer loyalty thanks to the creation of a closer brand management relationship.

Updated last year, ISO 12647-2 now takes into account market developments. For example, tone curves no longer consider film-based processes and the defined dot gain now factors printing machines with linearly exposed computer-to-plate printing plates. This simplifies the process by reducing the need for tonal adjustments in process calibration. There is also the new measurement condition M1, published in 2009 as ISO 13655. It matches D50 more closely—especially in the UV range—creating a better to visual perception. For a printer, this means investment in up-to-date measurement devices and standard lighting solutions have to be used throughout the entire process chain.


Transparent colour management process ensures quality assurance, maintains customer loyalty, and creates a closer brand management relationship



The new ISO 12647-2 also details how to work with papers that do not correspond exactly to the substrate descriptions in the standard while optical brightener handling has imp-roved through the consistent application of D50, including measurement technology.

Countering confusion

Juergen Seitz, GMG’s senior technical advisor, says that while there is some confusion and that printers are afraid of the changes, the most important of the alterations was with the viewing conditions. In the past, they ignored the influence of fluorescent agents but, with the new D50 application, optical brightening agents start to shine, which impacts precise colour reproduction. This has meant that Fogra 39 is now too yellow a standard to follow. As a result, Fogra 51 and 52 are now being developed for coated and uncoated papers.


Juergen Seitz, senior technical advisor at GMG, warns there is some confusion over evolving colour standards and printers are afraid of the changes



ISO 12647-2 is very much print business facing, this is because a production department uses it to set an internal approach to support customer requirements. However, developments are underway on three new standards that are more customer-facing. They are ISO 17972-4 for spot colours, ISO 16761 for universal printing work-flows, and ISO 15339 for print and colour control—although at the most recent FOGRA meeting the latter was still not fully accepted.

These standards are designed to help printers protect their print production quality, and therefore ought to be a tool everyone is clamouring to add to their services. But they still prove to be a source of bewilderment for many. Mark Anderton, Color Engine man-aging director explains: “It depends on the size of the operation, but on the whole these are not widely understood on an individual printer level. Offset litho colour management is a matching game. You have got to match ink and substrate combination as well as the total area coverage in the pile. If you don’t, you could have over inking and the job may go in the bin because it is not sellable.

Offset litho colour management is a matching game. You have got to match ink and substrate combination as well as the total area coverage in the pile


“It also affects drying times and impacts turnaround. And, during the recession, the market pushed to lower quality cheaper paper stocks, which compounded things. Over inking remains a big issue, but there are highly relevant solutions available.”

Ongoing management

John Davies, business strategy and marketing manager Fujifilm Graphic Systems Europe, believes that all printers are aware they should have on-going management of the colour quality that they print, but many tend to do this as a one-time process as software solutions can be quite complex.


Colour management is more than a one-time process says John Davies, business strategy and marketing manager Fujifilm Graphic Systems Europe



Davies expands: “Colour management is an exact science, and too many products provide far too many tools and settings for end-users to access. Because of the vast variety of settings avail-able, printers often don’t understand what the settings do, or how best to utilise them. It’s not just printers wanting to improve their internal quality control by printing to ISO standards, customers are also expecting this.”

Davies warns that if the colour management software is too complicated to use, it ultimately halts sales. Fujifilm’s XMF ColorPath is a colour management system that is a process. If a customer follows the software defined processes they can profile offset presses, digital presses or proofers to ISO standards and maintain consistent standards.


Colour Engine can help with creating the most efficient colour workflow solution



Michael Smyth, sales director for north-east Europe, imaging and printing at X-Rite, explains demand is for solutions which will increase competitiveness and efficiency by reducing waste, both ink and paper, and getting saleable product off the press as soon as possible.

Smyth comments: “This can range from automated scanning, internal quality control or improved management of inks. Sometimes the cost of a solution can be an obstacle but I think it is our role to help show the customer that with some products, like ink formulation software or our automated scanning solution, the return on investment is very often less than twelve months.”

O Factoid: The International Organisation for Standardisation was founded on February 1947 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.  O


Anderton says that another consideration is legacy information, adding: “Some 95 percent of the industry prepares files for data set 39L—a data set prepared for a sheetfed coated stock. So the vast majority of files are prepared for coated paper stock and then printed on uncoated stock. This then magnifies any problems they have.”

Cloud-based change

Meanwhile, Seitz of GMG says that a lot is changing in colour management and it is important to consider this fact.
Seitz continues: “On the one hand global cloud-based solutions and remote scenarios are getting more important. Fast and accurate colour communication is key for many approval processes. A good example is the workflow integration of our Color-Proof-proofing application CoZone—a web-based tool for collaboration, cloud-based colour management, and very accurate on screen soft proofing.”

He adds: “On the other, we are in the middle of an important transition phase from old to new references.”

Supporting brands is central to Pantone, using its PantoneLIVE system as a key tool in this mission. Indeed, major players like X-Rite, Esko, and Sun Chemical all rely on it. A case in point is Esko’s cloud-based Color Engine database colours, which are accessible worldwide to brand owners, packaging designers, packaging converters, and everyone in the supply chain.


Fujifilm’s XMF ColorPath is a colour management system that guides the user through a defined process to achieve the best results
 


















Speaking about such solutions, Paul Bates, regional business manager for north west Europe at Esko, comments: “Global brands want constancy world-wide. So when you are travelling you recognise the brand through colour and design, even if the product name is different, for example Lays and Walkers.

“When they are printing that same packaging on all continents it’s essential that all the printers have the same target colour, this is where Pantone-Live comes in.

“It helps brand owners reduce disruption to new product releases. The closer you get to delivery, the more expensive any corrections are. Colour perception can be different every step of the process.”

Expanding on this, X-Rite’s Smyth adds: “With the advent of PantoneLIVE, brands including P&G and Asda are now making their brand colours available digitally to their supply chain, on different and appropriate substrates so that regardless of location, process or substrate, they will always looks the same.”

Elsewhere, Judd Perring, director ORIS Packaging Innovations (UK), says brand colour is everything, no matter what the substrate or application. He confirms that many operations are now starting to supply their own colour exchange format data tailored to their market needs. As well as accuracy assurance it speeds up production and saves costs.

Process adoption

Looking towards adoption of practices, GMG’s Seitz says the most crucial consideration is the measurement process adopted.

He explains: “There is a big UK publisher that has 99 percent of its prepress based on old viewing technology. It uses OSRAM light bulbs used to avoid old viewing light. There are several incidences of this around the world. The new standards create a good fit and communicate colour much better. We have never been so close to that holy grail of ‘what you see is what you get’. If we want to improve colour communication and get close to perfection in an automated way we need to follow rules.”


Fast and accurate colour communication is key for many approval processes



Anderton says most people struggle to know who to turn to for straight-forward advice, commenting: “Operations need relevant training that is pitched at the right levels for them. In this market there has to be a continual investment in wanting to learn. It is an area rich in problems but the benefits for the customer are quality, reliability, and consistency of jobs. For the printer they are time and cost savings due to a more efficient cost effective production process.”

In terms of savings, Davis says that those associated with ink are one of the biggest financial considerations of any job and offer big plus points.

Davis continues: “Printers are able to replace a level of CMY ink with black ink, with no difference on the quality of the end product. They can save on costs by using less CMYK inks, but it also means that print jobs dry faster, resulting in the work being finished quicker than before. Ultimately though, improved customer satisfaction and better colour quality control are more general gains of adopting colour management.”

As for the drivers for colour management adoption, Anderton says they are often emotional rather than logical: “It can be losing a client rather than ROI, although it is much more difficult to create tangible results with colour management. The biggest change they are likely to see is a reduction in paper proofs as we can deliver colour accurate print proofs on the monitor.

He concludes: “Colour management can make a huge difference, but is not well understood how powerful it can be in positively changing the bottom line.”

Colour management can make a huge difference but is not well understood how powerful it can be in positively changing the bottom line

Taking this into account, Seitz adds: “There is a lot of fear and uncertainty and people are very confused. After a day’s training printers are relieved. They see they only have to make minor changes that are not as dramatic as they first thought.”

It is easy to see how operations that are up against it to meet deadlines are struggling to take the time to understand how implementing colour management can impact them. Quantifying the return on investment is not straightforward. The introduction of colour management ought to start with a clear understanding of the printing operation’s current performance or how else are you going to recognise its impact—because it will not be as easy as spotting Tiffany blue or Cadbury purple.


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