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Colour Management

Attention to detail is of the utmost importance in wide-format print and signage jobs. With this in mind, we take a look at some of the colour management products that can help ensure high levels of accuracy

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Available from X-Rite, the i1Pro 3 Plus can deliver improved measurements on substrates such as vinyl, fabrics, and transparent films

Keeping Colour in Line

Delivering high quality jobs at the first effort is a sure-fire way of ensuring that customers come back to you with more work, time and time again. While investment in a quality wide-format printer will certainly allow you to achieve quality print, you need to think further when it comes to accuracy.

Matching colour to customer requirements is absolutely crucial in printed work, especially with those jobs that carry iconic brands and colours; think the bold red of Coca-Cola or the easily recognisable purple of NatWest. Get this wrong and you risk not only this job but almost certainly repeat business.

Here, SignLink takes a closer look at colour management products and analyses how these solutions can help you increase accuracy across wide-format print projects of all shapes and sizes.

A Critical Component

First, we look to X-Rite, a company based in the US that provides colour measurement and management products to the industry. Dr. Leila Khatai, marketing director for the EMEA region at X-Rite, says as digital printing continues to grow, many companies are moving beyond traditional media to create artwork on substrates like wood, acrylic, textiles, and backlit materials. Khatai explains while the results can be beautiful, achieving exceptional print quality on these materials can be challenging.

“International Colour Consortium (ICC) colour management means having a workflow that is predictable, consistent, and repeatable from capture through to proofing and final output,” Khatai says, adding: “To achieve a colour managed workflow, you need to calibrate your devices and create an ICC profile for every component, including the camera, monitor, projector, scanner, and printer.

X-Rite’s i1Profiler software comes bundled with the i1Pro 3 (pictured) and i1Pro 3 Plus measuring devices

“For the best colour results, you need to calibrate each device that is contributing to your workflow to ensure it is accurately reproducing colour. Next you need to create ICC profiles to ensure they're speaking the same language. With an ICC profile generation tool, you can create profiles for all types of input and output devices, including conventional and digital RGB, CMYK, and CMYK+ (up to four additional colours) printing systems on a wide range of printing substrates so you can trust your colour on any device.”

O Factoid: An International Colour Consortium (ICC) profile is a file that describes how to correctly convert image files from one colour space to anotherO

With this, Khatai draws attention to some of the latest and most recent solutions available from X-Rite. Khatai begins with i1Profiler, an ICC profile generation tool that comprises a suite of tools designed to create high-end profiles for all of a user’s devices. The latest version of the i1Profiler software offers new features such as ‘Spot Colour Compare’ that includes Pantone colour look up, ‘Black Generation’ for improved shadow grey balance and full control over black width, as well as a ‘Workflow’ option to load and save your work from a custom location.

i1Profiler software comes bundled with the i1Pro 3 and i1Pro 3 Plus measuring devices. Khatai says the large aperture i1Pro 3 Plus can deliver improved measurements on many substrates used in sign-making and similar work, including vinyl, fabrics, transparent films, corrugated, and backlit for improved print quality.

“The polarisation option eliminates the reflections that can otherwise make it difficult to measure textured and shiny surfaces,” Khatai explains, continuing: “The transmissive measurement mode allows for the calibration and profiling of backlit materials.”

Khatai goes on to say that both the i1iO for i1Pro 3 and i1Pro 3 Plus can be added to a workflow at any time. The i1iO reads more than 500 patches per minute in scanning mode to quickly create custom profiles and has a robotic arm that attaches to the device and moves it over each patch on the test chart. It can adjust in height to accommodate media up to 10mm thick, and up to 33mm thick with the optional Z-axis spacer.

“If you deal with both flexible and rigid substrates like so many in the wide-format world, you’ll appreciate the i1iO’s ability to quickly measure a multi-page target by simply defining three location points, then instructing the software to operate in either a single-scan or dual-scan mode,” Khatai comments.

“Even if the printer produces a low-resolution print, the i1iO table can automatically perform what could be a tedious manual measurement task.”

Khatai goes on to say that as colour affects every workflow, only investment in a quality and reliable colour management product will allow companies in the wide-format and sign-making sectors to produce consistent, repeatable colour in their various applications.

“Managing colour is critical from design through pre-press, production, and quality assurance,” Khatai says, adding: “From specifying the proper Pantone colours in the design phase, to using the i1Pro 3 for characterising and proof validation to the eXact 2 portable spectrophotometer in the pressroom, each tool is critical in any colour-managed workflow. Capturing spectral data not only ensures colour standards are clearly communicated, but also provides an accurate way to measure and control printed results.”

Save Time and Money

Elsewhere, Papergraphics provides the sign-making and wide-format print markets with both hardware and software solutions. Dean Sutton, one of the technical experts at Papergraphics, says that the value of quality colour management cannot be overstated.