Left side advert image
Right side advert image
Super banner advert image
Subscribe to Print Monthly's RSS feed

Enter your email address here to sign up for our weekly newsletter

Colour Management

Colour management software helps sign-makers and wide-format printers save time and money on reprints. Rob Fletcher takes a look at some of the latest products available in this area

Article picture

GMG ColorServer Digital, incorporating GMG SmartProfiler enables VGL to avoid reprints of signage and print only the panels needed

Finding a balance

Sign-makers and wide-format printers are being faced with shorter turnaround times than ever before, putting them under pressure to ensure they are producing work right first time around, thus saving them time and costs on unnecessary repeat printing.

One effective way of ensuring accuracy in print is investing in quality colour management software, with these products helping users hit their colour targets at the first attempt, significantly reducing the possibility of having to reprint work.

Here, we investigate some of the latest colour management software products available to the market and find out how these updated solutions can help sign-makers and wide-format print companies gain an advantage in the modern, busy market.

Balanced workload

First up, GMG Color specialises in colour management and proofing software, offering a range of products to the market. Russell Weller, commercial director of GMG Color UK, says quality software will allow users to match colours across different presses and print processes, whether digital, conventional or multi-colour.

“Not only does this mean your customers’ colours are repeatable across different projects and substrates, it also gives you the benefit of balancing workload more efficiently across your printers,” Weller explains.

“Importantly, a process-driven, colour managed workflow can pay for itself in months – ROI (return on investment) for a GMG system is typically within 12 months through reduced man hours, less wastage and rejected print, with significant consumables savings on ink, substrates and print heads.

“With GMG ColorServer, prepress can predict exactly what the final print result will look like, without constant correction cycles requiring reprints, and without the need to run proofs on press. And the built-in GMG SmartProfiler tool makes press profiling quicker and less resource intensive. Printers don’t need to be re-profiled when changing substrates, meaning less materials are used.”

O Factoid: GMG ColorServer is now available as a multi-colour product O

With this in mind, what should sign-makers and wide-format print companies be looking for in this sort of software? Weller picks out a number of factors to keep in mind when you are in the market for a new colour management solution.

First, users should focus on achieving repeatability and efficiencies, with Weller advising to look for software that enables minimal manual intervention and achieves consistent colour results to a specified standard automatically.

“This eliminates manual colour adjustment of files and profiles, which is a very time-consuming procedure that often fails to produce the required quality,” Weller says, adding: “Automation is a requirement in colour management for signage printing because files are often supplied in several colour spaces.

“Even within the same file, some images could be sRGB, some could be ISO Coated V2 (39L), and all using different profiles. Regardless of this, the expectation from customers will be that high quality print is achieved, usually the equivalent of offset. GMG ColorServer significantly reduces the time spent on manual file conversion and normalisation, due to its hot folder based automated conversions.”

Weller also advises sign-makers to look for software with calibration tools that enable correct colour results to be repeated time after time and across multiple printing devices. Weller refers back to the GMG SmartProfiler profiling engine for digital devices, which he says allows the user to recalibrate to a reference condition quickly and easily for stable print behaviour, and to compensate colour drifts for variations of substrate colour/white points and different print modes.

“This is particularly important for reprints of signage using multiple panels, as it enables you to print one new panel as necessary, rather than the entire print run,” Weller explains, adding: “Printers often produce signage across different processes, presses and multiple materials.

“However, with this profiling capability, there’s no need to make manual colour adjustments on presses to get them aligned, cutting the time the press is taken out of production, and limiting the use of materials involved.”

Taking a closer look at GMG’s other products, GMG ColorServer is now available as a multi-colour product, as well as having solutions for CMYK-based digital and conventional processes, or hybrid set ups.

Another key change is that GMG ColorServer solutions are now pay-monthly subscription based. Weller says they provide all the tools required for end-to-end colour management, incorporating colour separation, proofing, ink optimisation and exact profiling tools tailored to your printing processes.

Weller also says the GMG OpenColor profiling tool predicts colour results accurately when converting spot colours into a fixed colour palette of, for example, CMYK plus OGV.

Reduce colour barriers

Next, X-Rite offers a range of colour management solutions to the market. Liz Quinlisk, business unit manager at X-Rite, says as more sign shops print on various substrates that go beyond smooth paper, investing in quality colour management software and hardware has become even more critical.

“A colour managed workflow can reduce colour barriers and bring a sign shop to a higher level of colour accuracy and consistency across all jobs – no matter what material they print on,” Quinlisk explains, adding: “Utilising colour management in the printing process will result in less wasted time and materials – both of which have become increasingly more expensive, and will produce happier customers.

Utilising colour management in the printing process will result in less wasted time and materials

“Sign-makers are increasingly being asked to produce more accurate colour that goes beyond “good enough”. As the variety of materials increase, a sign shop should look for a solution that is capable of managing a broad spectrum of media – from smooth paper to highly textured or glossy papers, canvas, fabrics and backlit materials.”
With this, Quinlisk draws attention to X-Rite’s i1Publish Pro 3 Plus, which provides both the software (i1Profiler) and hardware (i1Pro 3 Plus spectrophotometer) needed to profile these sorts of substrates.

X-Rite’s i1Pro 3 solutions include both software and hardware products

The software has both a basic and an advanced mode to accommodate different skill levels and workflows. The i1Pro 3 Plus device also has a larger aperture, which Quinlisk says was designed specifically for measuring colour digitally printed on unique substrates.

The solution also provides monitor profiling capabilities to ensure accurate on-screen colour for soft proofing, while Quinlisk recommends that sign shops also consider an automated measurement table for building hands-free printer profiles.

“Since printer profiles are custom to the material, ink set and printer, this is ideal for shops that have a wide variety of materials,” Quinlisk says, adding: “An automated table, like the X-Rite i1iO, can save valuable time and eliminate manual scanning and any user errors.”

In terms of what is new from X-Rite, Quinlisk highlights the i1Pro 3 Plus model, which she says addresses the challenges of printing onto unique substrates, delivering a complete hardware and software solution at an accessible price point for users.