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Frank Talks Color Management (In a Purple Shirt)

Published on November 14, 2014

This week, Frank revisits color management, first by thanking the many people involved in a recent comment thread on one of his videos, then by re-stating his opinion that color management is a mess. He also calls for a "Color Summit".




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By David Avery on Nov 14, 2014

/Sarcasm on
C'mon ... You expect files to be prepared properly for color ... We still can't get bleed information!
/Sarcasm off


By John Clifford on Nov 14, 2014

And then how do we roll it out to those of us who are trying to teach it? As the conversation between Dov and I showed, Time, Inc. STILL asks for all their ads to be PDF/X-1a. NO Color Management. How do I tell students to prepare their work?

I'd love a standardized solution, but as David Avery noted, we can't even seem to get designers to understand bleed, and as one who teaches it, it's really simple. Color management, ain't.


By Henry Freedman on Nov 14, 2014

So to properly address this topic one needs to
define the results of the color printing and therefor define the acceptance of the color
imagery grading the results for the color management process. This has recently been invented and just patented by myself and my partners Dr. Peter Dundas and Dr. Peter Crean of Image Test Labs. Predicting the acceptance of the imagery helps determine the best process for color management and it gets the customer the will pay for the work see Image Grader at> http://imagetestlabs.com/library.html


By Michael Jahn on Nov 14, 2014

Hey Frank - here is *the* color conference you are wishing about !


Oh, and BTW - that is NOT a PURPLE SHIRT !


That is Pantone 696 ! Not even CLOSE to purple - Pantone Purple lands between Pantone 252 and Pantone 253!


By John Rahill on Nov 14, 2014

I don't think we will ever get people to print to one standard for every job. If we did, there would be little to no difference in the output - thus no competition. If you talk to print shop owners, they want an edge on their competition...not just a financial one, they want their output to look "Better" than the shop down the street. So some big name shops tweak their profiles to give them and their client an advantage.

Yes there are standards and lots of tools, but as been pointed out, files don't come ready to print, schools don't teach just one way, and most of all, customers do want different results.

Stop complaining and provide a suite of services that meet the customers specific needs. You can achieve consistency on a job by job basis, if that is what the customer wants. To me it comes down to three basic pricinples; Quality, cost, and delivery...and these can be shop and or job dependent.


By Ernest Seals on Nov 14, 2014

"We have met the enemy, and they is us"
Pogo had it right. The tools have never been better! The holy grain is attainable if we reach for it.


By Christoph Degel on Nov 15, 2014

I attended the colour-management-symposium several times. I think it comes close to a summit especially since vendors, printers and publishing-experts come together to talk and to exchange opinions.



By John Clifford on Nov 16, 2014

@John Rahill,

So there can be color that is better than the standard? Then why isn't that the standard. How can one printer print a color "better" than another printer?

So clients want different results? Does that mean that some want the color to be more green than what it really is? Or more yellow than what it really is? I just don't comprehend your arguments. Shouldn't the goal be to match the "purple" of Franks shirt? Standards should be able to do that. How to you "better" than match that color?

Your statement that it's all about "three basic principles; Quality, cost, and delivery..." doesn't even begin to address how you can GET quality.

Sounds like a marketing argument. And then you say that schools are teaching more than one way. Of course they have to. Because there are NO real world standards that we can teach to.


By James Kohler on Nov 17, 2014

I agree with you Frank!! Any "Color Summit" - don't forget to include and they usually do, the paper manufactures which can play a big part in how an images looks on paper.


By Gordon Pritchard on Nov 18, 2014

@John Clifford & @John Rahill

A standard can only be a standard if the majority of printers can meet it under reasonable manufacturing conditions. It does not represent the "best" that is possible.

Your statement:
"So clients want different results? Does that mean that some want the color to be more green than what it really is?" or "Shouldn't the goal be to match the "purple" of Franks shirt?" is IMHO meaningless. Graphic technologies are rarely called upon to match a specific color probably because that is, for a great many reasons, usually impossible. Instead they are called on to approximate the appearance of the subject given the limitations of the process.

The role standards play in this is to (as per ISO), "provide requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose." That's about where the standards end.

John writes: "I don't think we will ever get people to print to one standard for every job. If we did, there would be little to no difference in the output - thus no competition."

Well if you are an advertiser you would probably want your ad to appear as similar as possible in every publication it appears in. That's where industry print specifications and standards (like SWOP) come in since they define the parameters that help make that possible. Adhering to industry print specifications and standards also allows documents to be fairly print vendor neutral i.e. they can be created and printed at any shop that adheres to them with a reasonable expectation that the resulting presswork will meet expectations.

However, if you are a commercial printer you may want to set your own shop specific print standard to help differentiate yourself from your competition. Perhaps running different halftone screening, solid ink densities, or base ink hue sets.

There is no reason why a commercial print shop can't offer more than one print characteristic. An industry print standard when appropriate and shop specific print standards when that's appropriate.


By Gordon Pritchard on Nov 18, 2014

@James Kohler RE: "don't forget to include and they usually do, the paper manufactures which can play a big part in how an images looks on paper."

I have given presentation on printing processes at various paper manufacturer conferences (e.g. TAPPI www.tappi.org ) and I was quite surprised at how very little they actually know about printing. Their concerns are elsewhere as any read of their publications and resources will quickly reveal.


By Andy McCourt on Nov 19, 2014

Hello Frank, I hope the Koala I gave you at Ipex is behaving itself and not 100% Y; 5% M-ing itself all over. You are so right colour management is a mess - because it's meant to be. The only thing that satisfies customers is to have it under control. Standards? Different all over; therefore "standards" is an oxymoron. I work closely with a guy called 'The Colour Doctor' here in Australia. He uses ISO 12647-2 as the 'peg in the ground' but is wise enough to then tweak colour exactly to each client's wishes - and no two are the same! Here are links 3 such cases: Wide format; Photobooks and Offset. It works!

Just like Professorship; colour management can be a curmudgeonly thing!
Warm regards


By Eric Vessels on Nov 20, 2014

HAHA @Michael Jahn. I knew someone would take issue with "purple"! Leave it to Jahn.


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