Although you have been in the printing business for many years and quite successful using offset or toner-based technology, when you make a transition to production inkjet technology, there are new skills to be learned—one of which is color management. Color management is a holistic process with inkjet technology. It starts when the design is created, it is controlled at the prepress stage, and it is dependent on the ink and paper being used and their linearization (an iterative process of calibrating the press, ink, and paper to each other). Initially, the normal tendency is to apply color management as you were used to doing for other print technologies, but inkjet is different.
To successfully manage inkjet color output, the right input profile and output profile must be set so the entire workflow connects together correctly. An input profile describes the colors of an input device, like a digital camera or scanner. It tells the color management software, “These are the colors I saw when I took this picture.” An output profile defines what color the press has to create the output colors. It says, “These are the colors I can produce.” These two sets of colors do not align naturally. It’s the color management software that must translate the input information into information that the press can use to create the output as accurately as possible.
If you are new to color, it’s important to learn why an input profile is important, what that means in terms of a color workflow, and how to apply that information so the output is the best the output device can do. If you are a print provider with a lot of experience in the prepress area with color and color management related to platemaking, that understanding of color needs to be adapted to a digital workflow. The digital workflow takes the color files directly to the inkjet printer instead of the computer-to-plate system. How you manage color will be a big part of your success. Regardless of the technology you have now to handle color, you will find some changes are necessary.
How do you get this knowledge? With color training. Part of the implementation plan for a production inkjet press should include an assessment and needs analysis conducted by the representatives of the inkjet press manufacturer. During that assessment, any gaps in your organization’s understanding of color and color management will be identified. Either your production inkjet press manufacturer will provide training programs to address any gaps, or the manufacturer may suggest other training programs to consider.
Who should receive color training? We believe anyone who makes a color decision in an organization, whether it is creating the color content, deciding how to set up the press from a color content or color management standpoint, or determining whether the color output is acceptable should receive color training. These are the people who have a stake in stating that the color is correct or incorrect or actually making a change to the color. While each company’s structure is unique, such people could include data and content creation personnel, prepress or graphic artists, quality control managers, press shift leaders, print room supervisors, marketing, and customer service representatives.
Every manufacturer’s training is different. Some provide on-site operator training, some use classroom training, some do both. Look for the following topics to be covered.
- Fundamental components of color theory, lighting, and color management
- Practical implementation of color management concepts using customer-specific applications
- Color binding techniques
- Basic color prepress tools and techniques
- Parameters that affect color inkjet output, including a focus on paper stocks
- Paper linearization and color matching
A hands-on course that uses the applications you will be running is the most advantageous. And it’s a great way to get everyone in the organization who interacts with or evaluates color output on board with the new inkjet technology and able to understand the changes that need to occur for optimum color output. You’ll find it is time well spent.