Do You Know Enough to Succeed?

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

In this age of rapidly evolving technology knowledge can make the difference between success and mediocrity…or even failure. This goes way beyond knowing your customers and the markets you serve. These days, that stuff just lets you put up a sign and open the front door, and it’s not enough. You also have to be conversant on at least some of the technology that is making your business valuable to your customers.

Some of this is the entry-level stuff like remote job submission, security of cloud servers and being able to cite the wonders of your automated workflow. That may be important to your customers and even your Customer Service Reps (CSRs). But you and your team members need to be knowledgeable about one thing that really matters to customers. And that is color.

Pleasing Color
Color is often thought of as a given with modern digital presses, and the average customer—who does not possess the trained eyeballs of a printing pro—still has a pretty good handle on the level of color they want. This is often termed “pleasing color.” This is not the supposedly perfect color that is the domain of color scientists, but what an average customer expects. To be sure, there are times when you have to hit a certain red or blue or green in a logo—a so-called critical color—but even when you do, the “memory colors” of blue skies, green grass and flesh tones are ones on which customers most often judge color quality and accuracy. But getting there still isn’t simple.

This makes it good to know more about what is involved and that comes with a little color science. To help print providers, their teams and even their customers become a bit more knowledgeable Canon has produced three videos that explain color in terms that can help all involved better understand color and what they are seeing coming off a press. Although initially intended for Canon imagePRESS press operators, these videos are excellent for sharing with CSRs, prepress, and sales people because learning what the videos show helps make color easier to understand. This is important because modern presses make color seem simple—which it is not—and it is easy for anyone working with high-end digital color presses and software every day to take color for granted while not appreciating the magic and science behind it.

Digital Color
I’ve been looking at and thinking about digital color for more than two decades. I’ve read a lot, had even more explained to me, and wish these three videos had been around twenty years ago because I learn better through video and suspect many others do too. The host of the trilogy, a Canon color specialist named John Thorburn, does a fine job of explaining how color works and how it is possible to get the desired colors out of a modern digital press. Does he hit on every nuance and detail? No, but he explains the areas that are important for most people in a print shop, especially with respect to G7® specifications for achieving visual similarity across all print processes.color management.

The videos show what goes into getting the best possible quality color prints. It is excellent information for anyone in a print shop, from the owner to the CSR to the sales people to prepress to the press operator. Go through the set of three and even view them more than once to gain a better understanding of how color works. It’s interesting, and even a bit magical.

Keeping The Print Quality High: Part One - Bringing the Press Up to Color
Paper, as any artist, printer or press operator knows, is a color, and that makes it part of color management. This video talks about specifying a coated or uncoated paper, its color, and how a press should be calibrated to ensure a paper’s characteristics are part of the calibration process. Such attention to detail, built into the way a Canon digital press works, goes a long way to helping deliver the image quality customers expect. I especially like the section beginning at about 4:34 where Thorburn gets into calibration principles. This is stuff many of us learned and may even take for granted, but because many people in a print shop may not have much in the way of a color printing background, this kind of brief tutorial can be very helpful. It may even remind business owners of things they forgot!

Keeping The Print Quality High: Part Two - G7® Calibration and Custom Color Profiles
This video is the longest of the three and gets into more detail about G7 calibration. This is excellent info for print business staff who need to be more familiar with how calibration is done and what to expect from it.

Being a bit of a geek, the part I like best comes just after the 4-minute mark in a section entitled “Introduction to Color.” This part provides a basic dive into color and how we perceive it. It gets especially interesting at about 7:23 where Thorburn talks about gray-scale and its role as what he terms the ‘lynchpin between warm and cool colors,’ and moves on to how our eyes work and that we really see in just red, green and blue, with parts of our brains doing the rest of the work. This explains some of why my artist wife literally sees differently than I do. Or even can.

Keeping The Print Quality High: Part Three - Changing Colors, Quickly & Efficiently
Spot colors are a perennial challenge on almost any press and the process of ‘normalizing’ a spot color so the end results will be as desired is absolutely critical. As with accounting for paper color, this topic probably appeals more to press operators and pre press staff, but business owners can also benefit from being familiar with the process.

These three videos show the key details of attaining accurate color. And, while pleasing color is often all many customers may need, being able to deliver accurate spot colors, such as those used for logos and other branding, while also accounting for the color of the paper, all on a single digital press, can present a compelling argument for enticing a customer to do business with your shop instead of one down the street. Take a few minutes to look at these videos, then pass them around to the rest of your team, or do a lunch and learn session to broaden everyone’s knowledge.

Color matters, and providing the best possible color accuracy off your presses can be a clear differentiator when everyone in your shop has the knowledge to succeed.


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