In colour management part 1, we looked at how it’s tricky to accurately view printed colours and how, if faithful colour reproduction is important to your catalogue, you need to view colours in a controlled environment.
We now look at the first stages of getting colour towards your catalogue and how colour has to be managed through the process to make sure it’s printed accurately.
The range of colours we see as humans is pretty vast. And it’s important to understand that whenever we try and capture an image for use in any medium (screen, print, whatever), the range of colours is always reduced. The range of colours each device can reproduce and work with is called the colour gamut.
On the left, the largest circle is the visible colours we can all see – the visible colour gamut. When you take a photo on a digital camera, it’s stored as an RGB file. The RGB colour gamut is much smaller than the full visible gamut showing how much colour information is lost when we transfer it to a digital photo file. You can then see how many colours are described by pantone reference codes. And finally, you can see the range of colours that can be reproduced by the CMYK printing process (that’s the process most commercial printers use for catalogue printing).
You can see from this that while the CMYK process is perfectly suitable for most practical applications, in some circumstances it can struggle to faithfully reproduce colours. For example, the picture below shows the original colour required on the left and then shows the closest matching colour the CMYK process can manage on the right.
Of course, if a particular colour is absolutely required but the CMYK process can’t accurately reproduce it, that ink can be matched and used as an extra or special ink to supplement the cyan, magenta, yellow and black of the CMYK process.
We’ve looked at how to output artwork for print before. Suffice to say that it’s important to comply with your printer’s artwork guidelines (you can grab ours WM_PDF_Guidelines_2011 to see what they look like) and typically, you need to ensure you output to a PDF/X-1a file.
So, to get the best results, we need to manage the colour conversion through the process all the way to the proofs and onto the press. This starts with the RGB profile. Each camera stores the RGB information in a specific format – and where possible, your photographer should use the Adobe 1998 RGB standard as this is has the broadest colour gamut. SRGB is also good quality and a common gamut for computer monitor display but for catalogue printing, Adobe is the preferred RGB format. Ensure your photographer includes the RGB information in their file as this is used down the chain to control the profile of the colour.
If you’re specifying that you need your colour to be reproduced as faithfully as possible, which many of us require in our catalogue, it’s essential to have a contract proof. This is the only colour-faithful reproduction you’ll get before your copies come off the press and will allow you to tweak the colours if you’re not happy with them before you hit the press. You can also use the proof to compare the final job against so it’s a vital tool to ensure the final colour is the colour you’re happy with.
For more information on the different types of proof available to you, check our proofing article.
Phew. That’s enough for now. In the final instalment, we’ll take the job through to the press and look at how you can control (and troubleshoot) the final piece of the jigsaw to ensure you get precisely the colour reproduction you expect.
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. Contact a Print Consultant or call 01869 366931 for a friendly chat.