Catalogue Printing Help. The Whys and Hows of Colour Management (Part 1)

by Rich B

Why do you Need True Colour?
There are lots of reasons why you might need your print to show exactly the right colours. It could be because you have to ensure your brand colours are correct. Or it might be because the colours of the products in your catalogue really need to be as closely to the real thing as possible. That’s especially true in fashion.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand how colour is perceived, controlled and printed. In this first short article aimed especially towards brochure and catalogue printing, we look at why what you see isn’t always what it seems!

In the Eye of the Beholder.
Let’s start with the fundamentals. True-colour reproduction is very much in the eye of the beholder. What you see might well not be the same as what another person sees as there are perception and environmental factors that affect the way we see colour.

Eye Eye
For a start, the colour of any object (not just print) is altered by ambient light. If you view an object indoors, or under a fluorescent tube, or in a brightly coloured room, it will change your perception of colour when viewing another object. For example, if you’re viewing in a room that’s bright green, it stands to reason that it’ll tint the printed page you’re viewing, slightly altering your perception of the colours on the page. The same goes for light coming in from the window or the light bulbs around you.

Also, if you’re viewing a printed page, the other colours on the page will alter your perception of colour. Colours interact with each other to fool the brain, and that can be especially relevant to a catalogue page where there are lots of images and colours competing for the eyeball. Check the example below. It’s pretty hard to believe that tiles A & B are both exactly the same shade.

colour change optical illusion

Tiles A & B are the same colour. No, really.

OK, so you don’t believe us? Check out this video of some people who REALLY want to prove it’s true.

What does this all mean? It means that viewing colour is subjective. So if you’re viewing the page of your latest catalogue and discussing it with your printer or print consultant over the phone and are in dispute about a particular colour and you’re both adamant that the brand green is/isn’t right, then it’s just possible that you’re both correct (or wrong!)

But what’s the solution?

D50
D50 is a standard viewing environment for print colour. It refers to the frequency of the light and is a way to bring a controlled environment to the viewing of colour. If you view a piece of print in a D50 environment (as your printer will) then it allows anyone to be sure they’re viewing the print in the same conditions. Meaning, you’re all seeing the same thing and have taken external environmental factors into account.

So now you can have a sensible conversation about the catalogue you’re looking at in the happy certainty that your customer/printer isn’t trying to view it by the light of a candle or in the full sun while necking their morning mocha.

Future articles will cover how colour degrades across digital/analogue processing and how it needs to be matched to the specific printing press if you want to recreate totally true colour in your catalogue.

Webmart are experts in catalogue printing and in managing your colour through print (in fact, expert at managing everything to do with print!) If you need to buy print anywhere in the UK, why not give us a call? We advise, buy, project manage and deliver your print and will usually save you money over your existing supplier. Talk to a print consultant by clicking here or calling 01869 366931.

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