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Need To Know

Colour Management

With accuracy more important than ever for print service providers as they seek to meet the demands of customers, Rob Fletcher looks at some of the latest colour management solutions to help companies in their quest

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Hitting your colour targets

Competition in the UK print industry is at an all time high, with print service providers (PSPs) of all shapes and sizes vying for contracts across a host of profitable markets. As stated on many occasions in recent years, being able to differentiate yourself from competitors is critical.

But how do you go about this in an effective manner? Many have advised PSPs to showcase to their customers how they can produce quality work again and again. Colour management software will go a long way in helping you achieve this, with such solutions enabling you to hit the right colours time and time again.

We take a look at some of the latest products in this sector of the market and highlight just how each of these solutions can help PSPs both win and retain customers.

Raise your standards

Onyx Graphics is one of several companies able to offer both advice and solutions in this area. Bryan Manwaring, director of product marketing, says PSPs are under pressure to ensure their output keeps up with constantly rising industry standards.

Bryan Manwaring, director of product marketing at Onyx Graphics, says printers “must find technology solutions that help them do more with less”

“With the increasing pressure to meet customer demands for output accuracy, faster turnaround times and narrowing profit margins, printers absolutely need the right tools at their disposal to achieve output that meets industry standards and customer needs if they are going to compete or differentiate themselves,” he says.

Printers must find technology solutions that help them do more with less, improve output accuracy, reduce waste and increase capacity without raising costs

“Printers must find technology solutions that help them do more with less, improve output accuracy, reduce waste and increase capacity without raising costs. Quality colour management software is one significant component toward making the kind of improvements to meet these needs.”

He adds: “Simultaneous RIPs produce enormous processing speed and capacity to do more in less time; Quick Set application libraries provide automation for reduced error and improved production efficiency; colour management tools allow for accurate and consistent output to print right the first time and reduce the need for reworks, saving ink and media.”

Onyx Graphics used this year’s edition of SGIA to showcase its latest colour management software solutions to the industry

Manwaring says Onyx is the only RIP and print workflow solution provider that owns and designs all of its own technology. He also notes that it is the first such offering compatible with iccMAX, the newest standard recommended by the ICC for all wide-format print applications.

He cites the ONYX Onyx Engine as one of the company’s “key differentiators”. This bespoke colour engine is built specifically for wide- and grand-format print, making it a suitable choice for a range of work.

“The Onyx Colour Engine includes built-in G7 and FORGRA verification and ink savings with GCR Plus without compromising on colour output,” he says, adding: “Users are able to build ICC profiles that maximise colour gamut to match their customers’ brand colour needs by following a simple ‘print, read, next’ walkthrough, resulting in superior colour output.”

A supporting colour management tool within Onyx software is ‘SwatchBooks’ that, according to Manwaring, helps find the best possible match to any given colour when media and ink combinations fall short of achieving brand colours.

“Printing with SwatchBooks takes the guesswork out of colour matching and provides a means for print service providers to set expectations with their customers regarding final output,” Manwaring explains.

“Onyx software is an end-to-end scalable solution for full RIP and print workflow with integrated colour management that can grow with their business and give users control to manoeuvre assets around to meet daily production needs and reduce costly downtime from printer service needs.”

Primary tool

Also active in this market is Xerox, one of the leading brands in digital printing technology. Kevin O’Donnell, head of marketing, says Xerox offers a “scalable portfolio of colour management offerings and wider workflow tools”, with its software able to sit either on the digital front end, prepress or in the cloud.

Kevin O’Donnell, head of marketing at Xerox, believes colour management software is one of the “primary tools” for any modern-day PSP

O’Donnell expands: “Colour management is one of the primary tools for any PSP; it provides accuracy and consistency against brand, design intent and print delivery. Printers running across multiple devices need to ensure consistency and in today’s ever-demanding world it has to be fast, automated and easy to use.

“The key to software in today’s market is to add automation to the workflow. By doing this, any repetitive task can typically be automated providing consistency, speed and accuracy while releasing time back to the print business. 

“The adage is that every time a printer physically touches a job they lose money, so incorporating integrated and automated workflow makes good business sense.”

Acknowledging the amount of solutions in this sector, O’Donnell offers his views on why PSPs should invest in Xerox technology over rival products.

He says: “As well as the automation and accuracy, printers should look at how well any new software integrates with the broader workflow they employ. At Xerox we pride ourselves on not only providing world class workflow whether it be marketing automation, ecommerce through prepress, perhaps on press or even post press, but the fact that they are integrated, talk to each other and offer print businesses a joined up approach. This includes both Xerox and our partner products.”

Against the dark arts

Elsewhere, PrintFactory is also able to offer a selection of colour management products to PSPs. Erik Strik, chief executive, says while all PSPs understand the value of colour management for ensuring consistency, quality and print buyer satisfaction, few operators actually rely on the RIP software of their choice to ensure absolute colour accuracy across devices.

Erik Strik, chief executive of PrintFactory, says PSPs should invest in a single, end-to-end solution, in order to address various complex parameters related to preserving colour fidelity

Strik expands: “This is because most print shops rely on the standard technology that comes with their printer—sometimes with sub-standard capability. But the biggest problem isn’t so much the platform of choice, the major problems arise because multiple technologies are at play and it’s this inherent inconsistency that could be creating costly colour management inefficiencies.

“By investing in a single, end-to-end solution, this will address the many complex parameters involved in preserving colour fidelity from screen to substrate.

“Colour management should no longer be considered a dark and inaccessible art. The technology to eliminate bottlenecks and deliver identical output across devices already exists.

O Factoid: Colour management is not just an issue in print; it is a key factor for technologies such as television screens, digital cameras, monitors and image scanners O

“Large format print companies need only take a small leap of faith to embrace new advances in colour technology that optimise their workflow for maximum productivity and profitability.”

With this, Strik goes on to outline PrintFactory as a complete workflow solution for large format printers. Its core features boost throughput, reduce waste and prepare PSPs for the new age of print production, allowing users to access a host of benefits.

These include what Strik bills as “game-changing colour management”, whereby users can build DeviceLink profiles in minutes. Professional PDF editing and layout applications enable users to achieve everything that they can in Adobe Illustrator and more, while quality control tools boasting ‘track and trace’ IDs allow the production team to follow a job from start to finish.

Strik also draws attention to the new ‘PrintFactory Cloud’, where his team will be rolling out a “revolutionary concept that delivers on the promise of a simplified workflow process through advanced colour management and automation delivered as a SaaS model”.

He adds: “Its accessible payment structure and scalability means that, for the first time, anyone—from SMEs through to multisite, international operations— can count on the most advanced colour management solutions available.”

The next level

Casting the net a little further and Esko is also well placed to help PSPs with their colour management requirements. Geert De Proost, director solutions marketing, says this software can help PSPs deliver consistently high-quality production results, day in day out, without increasing costs.

De Proost expands: “Today’s brands include an ever-increasing number of product variants; this in turn leads to shorter packaging or label lifecycles. The result is a more complex production process and increased cost for printed materials.”

Esko recently expanded its portfolio with Equinox, which helps PSPs to maintain consistent quality

Esko recently expanded its portfolio with Equinox, which De Proost bills as a “total solution for the implementation of expanded gamut printing enabling operations to achieve enhanced colour results in a cost-efficient way”.

Equinox uses ICC profiles and colour algorithms in its colour calculations, which De Proost says allows superb quality print to be delivered faster while lowering production costs. Expanded gamut printing technologies widen the range of reproducible colours by adding one or more inks—orange, green, blue or purple—to the conventional process inks.

Equinox uses ICC profiles and colour algorithms in its colour calculations

De Proost says: “By using the same set of inks for all print jobs, most spot colours are matched without the production overheads of spot colour printing. This saves on inks, and indeed plates, for packaging work and time as the press changeover workload between jobs is reduced to simply changing printing plates.”

In addition, with the Equinox Adobe Photoshop plug-in, users can choose to make grass greener, constrain orange from flesh tones, add blue to a violet sweater but not a blue sky, or any other editorial change.

The right software can take productivity to the next level by reducing production costs, eliminating press downtime and ink changes

De Proost adds: “The right software can take productivity to the next level by reducing production costs, eliminating press downtime and ink changes. Expanded gamut printing makes it possible to reproduce a spot colour while maintaining the visual brand identity.”

De Proost’s comments conclude this piece nicely, setting out the key advantages of having quality software in place. PSPs are facing new challenges on an almost daily basis and need plenty of help from kit to meet these demands. Hardware can only take you so far; software allows you to take greater control over your presses and produce quality print over and over again.


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