As production and industrial printing in color accelerate, so has the need to remain educated about color imaging technology and color management.
During January’s EFI Engage virtual conference, the company’s alternative to its in-person EFI Connect Users’ Conference, Toby Weiss, senior vice president, general manager of Fiery, framed his keynote around an interesting proclamation: “Color is a one-way street.”
What did he mean by that?
He said, “As we get better with color and imaging technology, we can’t go back. Every time there is a technical innovation that makes color or imaging seem better, it is adapted. And looking back at the old technology, we can’t look at it the same way anymore.”
I remember common use of the words “acceptable color” in digital printing circles back in the late 90s, an effort to justify the purchase of color digital printing presses whose color was, well, acceptable, but certainly not offset quality. Then, we migrated to calling it near-offset quality.
Today, in most cases, you can say the quality is, for all practical purposes, equivalent.
Even after all this time, though, it still puzzles me why, at almost any printing conference, there is still so much discussion about color management. Don’t we all know everything there is to know about producing good color? The answer is no.
Part of the issue has to do with the ease with which one can set up a printing business these days, whether it be ink or toner on paper, printing direct to fabric for soft signage or apparel, or the dynamics of color when using heat transfer dye sublimation processes. You don’t need a degree from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to get started. You only need to buy the printer. There is plenty of education available to help newcomers to the wonders of color management technology get a handle on how to be the best that they can be.
This is one area of color management where EFI and others have excelled—making this education available online, sometimes free and sometimes with a nominal charge. And during the pandemic, lots of people took advantage of the stay-at-home time to do just that—take advantage of color education. According to EFI CEO Jeff Jacobson, more than 7,000 users took the time to become Fiery certified through the company’s virtual training last year. Adobe is another example of a company that offers a wide range of online training and certification, as well as tutorials, covering a wide range of topics, many of them centered around color.
And for those that want to get into even more depth, Idealliance offers a significant variety of training options for G7 certification, including through the organization itself—which is soon becoming part of PRINTING United Alliance. It also offers training through partnerships around the globe, including the ability for an EFI Fiery customer to use an app to determine whether their press is G7-compliant before paying the certification fees and offering solutions to bring it into compliance if it fails.
X-Rite/Pantone also offers a wealth of color education, targeted at everyone from designers through quality control and operations personnel. Designer-centric sites like ColorKarma offer resources to help designers implement design best practices and better understand industry trends that affect how their designs will be accepted and implemented.
The other issue around color in the broader industry, including textiles and apparel, is finding experienced talent who understand the dynamics of color and how to translate it to a printed piece, including the effects of substrates on color.
In addition to the resources we have identified, you can contact your printer manufacturer or the manufacturer of the printer’s digital front end. Many substrate providers also offer color tips and education. And industry associations are also a key resource in conveying color education.
Dealers should also serve as a key source of color education as well. Not only is offering color education a service to your customers and the industry at large, but it can also be an additional revenue stream.
No matter how much you think you know about color, it’s probably not enough. And the technologies and tools continue to evolve. Take this opportunity to seek out color education, whether you are a newbie or an old-timer. You will always learn something that will make you a better player in the broader printing industry.
Weiss is right in saying that color is a one-way street. To make sure you are not going the wrong way on that street, educate yourself about color dynamics and how to ensure the best possible color moving forward so you don’t crash into trends going the opposite direction.
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