Before we dive into the complexities of colour management, let's take a step back and determine what colour is in the first place. In its most basic definition, colour is simply a phenomenon of light and visual perception that enables us to differentiate between objects which would look identical without it. Meaning: colour not only allows us to see vividly, it allows us to see in the first place.
Why Colour Management matters
When it comes to perfect colour reproduction, using the best paper is one thing. Knowing how to make it work with any device is another.
It is between these 380 and 780 nanometers what we perceive in this world, and when we print, we want that world reflected on paper as exactly as possible. But in order to do that, we need to be crafty.
How it used to be
Before colour management as we know it today, skilled printers used drum scanners to adjust colours for every specific print job. An endeavour that was not only time-consuming, but also expensive, requiring an enormous amount of training and experience.
Nowadays, colour management is still a science, but with help of specific hard- and software allows us to get high-quality colour reproduction through the whole colour reproduction process. From the perfect photo shot by a digital camera to perfect printout on a digital or a litho printing press.
How does colour management work?
The process that makes this possible is colour management.
It starts with proper adjustment of the press - calibration. This is the basis for colour management. In the second step the signal going into the machine is measured and adjusted - this is called profiling.
To understand how these two processes work, let us take a quick look at some colour theory and how it translates to print on paper.
In print, the two most important ways of colour reproduction are a subtractive and an additive one, both of which use a small number of colours, which in combination produce a large number of colours, the so-called gamut.
The additive colour model of light is the RGB (red, green, blue) colour model, which can create to a huge number of different colours, depending on their respective quantities, and if the light of all three colours are added up in equal amounts, the result is white. Here, our eyes are translating the different reflections of wave-lengths into their respective colours. RGB is used in many digital devices, like cameras or scanners, and computer monitors display colour in RGB.
The subtractive colour model - CMY - is the one usually used in all processes where dye or ink are printed on paper. Here, the colours cyan, magenta and yellow are used to absorb wavelengths in order to create a certain colour, or adding up to black or dark grey. But that's not all: in order to offset impurities in print, another factor is added to CMY printing: black. This turns CMY into CMYK (where the "K" stands for "Key").
The relationship between RGB and CMYK is a complex one, and transferring one colour model to another - for example from a digital device to paper - is a process that can be quite daunting. This is why colour management needs to be an integral part of every printing process.
Every press, over time, experiences something called device drift. Even though a printing press might have been set up correctly initially, it will soon lose its accuracy over time. This is where colour calibration comes in, such as linearization for dot gain correction.
Printing the same colours on every type of device, with any kind of printing technology, needs a standardised way of measuring and applying these colours. The measuring partly relies on the so-called CIELAB model, and with the help of spectrophotometer, the colour of an object is measured according to that model. With this data as a base, a machine needs to be set up according to the collected data.
To calibrate a machine properly, these are the five steps necessary:
- First, set the LAB values gathered from the measurement.
- Then set the solid ink density. This value depends, among other things, on the type of paper used for the print job.
- Adjust for dot gain. Dot gain is a phenomenon where prints look darker than intended, so adjusting for it is a necessary part of colour calibration.
- Check the grey balance, that is the CMY ink densities of the 3-color grey patch, and compare them with K.
- Finally, double check your numbers, of both the adjusted dot gain and the final CMY densities.
With the hardware adjustments done, we can then move on to the second part of the process.
Where calibration deals with the hardware, colour profiling deals with how the signal is sent into the press and the ways it can and will be adjusted.
This is done by measuring the output and comparing it to the way colour is transferred to the paper. The resulting data is usually stored in an ICC profile (named after the International Color Consortium). These files hold all the data necessary to authentically reproduce colours from a specific device and they are also specific to the material they are printed on. That’s why there are different ICC files used in editing programs that correspond to different types of paper.
The right colours with the right paper
In the end, colour management is an indispensable tool when it comes to any type of printing. Especially for digital print, where ICC profiles allow for a quicker and more reliable way of reproducing colours on paper.
To create the ideal reproduction, there's one factor which also impacts it highly: the type of paper used. Which is where Color Copy comes in. Developed to take care of exactly these needs, Color Copy's surface structure and soft white hue allow for a greater reflection of colour, resulting in a higher gamut than standard paper.
Calibrating a machine as often as necessary, using the correct ICC profiles and finally the right type of paper will guarantee optimal colour reproduction even when it comes to complex print-jobs. With its ideal whiteness and the consistent quality, Color Copy is the paper that will give you outstanding colours, not merely true to life, but most importantly true to their exact specifications.
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