How to Reduce Waste and Save Money with Color Management
22 April 2021
A Q & A with Dietmar Fuchs, ColorLogic’s Product Manager, on why Color Management is not only key to the best possible colors in printing but can be used for reducing waste, too. Below are some steps your business can take immediately to score points to going green.
What is the biggest reason for waste in the printing industry?
One of the greatest causes of waste is when prints don’t meet the customers’ expectations, resulting in reprints. These errors are often due to incorrect or non-existent color management.
Today the print industry is extremely diverse – there is everything from digital printing to packaging and industrial printing such as ceramic printing to wood printing to wallpapers and textiles. But for all those sectors, color management is very important because there is no single quality standard that you can work with; it’s all individual, and each printer prints colors differently.
What’s the first thing a printer can do to achieve a more sustainable production workflow?
It all starts with making sure the printer prints reliably and in a good calibration state. Additionally, you need to describe how a printer prints colors – that’s what we call characterization or fingerprinting. You do this by printing a test chart from the printer, which may contain hundreds or even thousands of color patches that need to be measured with a spectrophotometer. That data is fed into ColorAnt to produce good quality measurement information.
From this information we can build ICC profiles with CoPrA. And with the ICC profiles we can build device link profiles for higher-end quality conversion. Then, when you get your print files from a design agency or prepress house, they can be color converted using our automatic color server, ZePrA. The color server ZePrA will match colors throughout your printing process and you can print at a high quality that matches your desired intention.
Can you give us a scenario of how color measurement can reduce waste with multicolor printing or extended color gamut (ECG)?
Perhaps your client has a certain package that was printed with CMYK. The next time the client says they want to reprint, they may want the magenta switched with a red color instead. That would typically mean you have to go through the exercise of printing a test chart first on your machine, getting good measurement data, and then creating an ICC profile, which would take a lot of time and material.
But if you have a measurement already from your desired red, or the client might have that already – from a Pantone color book, for example – then you can exchange that new process color in the measurement data that you have already. And by using a standard CMYK plus orange, green and violet – a seven-color printing process – you can simulate all sorts of colors simultaneously without having to change the inks.
That is a great ink-saving mechanism because it means you can get several jobs with different spot colors on one sheet. The requirement of course, is that you have good color management that can do this conversion from Pantone and other spot colors to your printing process.
The process of printing and making sure the press is in perfect condition, the inks are at the correct level, and so on, before actually printing a characterization test chart, can easily take one day of work on a big printing press. But this can be avoided by simulating how that red could replace the magenta.
ColorAnt is able to predict how this red will overprint with all the other colors and gives you a simulation of what it would look like. Then you can create an ICC profile from that new virtual measurement data without really printing it on your press – wasting time and ink and paper. And then you could create a proof print to show to a client before working on your press to exchange the red. Or you could even print right away with the profile and the changed ink in the press, saving a lot of time by avoiding creating new fingerprints.
So you are saying ColorAnt can help reproduce Pantone colors without facing the potential waste created by setting up, printing and cleaning with additional special inks?
What are some other eco-friendly features available with immediate results?
That would be SaveInk in CoPrA. CoPrA creates DeviceLink profiles that can be used for ink saving. A DeviceLink is a profile that converts from CMYK to CMYK, for example, in one step without having to go through a profile connection space, which is an L*A*B* representation of the colors.
That has a few, very important properties because if you are converting for example 100% black text with a typical ICC printer profile, it goes to LAB first, then it goes to CMYK with the second ICC profile. In the process, it loses the property that it was 100% black – it will be converted to something that is four colors. A DeviceLink can maintain the information that it was a pure color and it will be a pure color afterward.
In the case of SaveInk technology, it reduces the amount of CMY inks used and replaces it with black, which can reduce ink amounts by an average of 15 to 30%. Most presses need some warming-up time before the correct speed and color performance is reached, which gives you a pile of waste paper at the beginning. But by using SaveInk, this can be greatly reduced because if you print less ink on your paper it dries faster and sticks better, and therefore the color is better reached faster on the press, saving a lot of time and material.
Obtaining accurate color looks time consuming. What are some ways to streamline the color management workflow?
When working across a range of different substrates, it may be that a range of different ICC profiles and DeviceLinks are required. That can be a challenge if you don’t have a workflow that can accommodate it, but ZePrA offers a solution that can reduce both time and effort.
ZePrA can build the DeviceLinks on-the-fly called SmartLink. For example, if it sees it has to convert a file from, let’s say, a coated to an uncoated stock in a certain queue and configuration and then has to convert it to newspaper in another configuration, it will create those DeviceLinks automatically.
In the case of a print-ready PDF document with multiple elements, ZePrA creates DeviceLinks by looking at all the elements and the output intent, which is basically an ICC profile describing the entire product. There may be RGB images in the document, and each RGB image would have an ICC profile assigned to it. But ZePrA reads all the ICC profiles and creates the necessary conversions by building a DeviceLink profile for each of those elements and putting them all together. So, you don’t have to do that manually, and that saves you a lot of time.
Can ZePrA work with PSD and TIFF files with layers from Photoshop?
Yes. But keep in mind that Photoshop layers were never designed to do color conversion. But in the design process and pre-press process, designers like to work with those layers to make last-minute corrections. ZePrA, though, is able to retain most of the layers and convert them, one by one. You can’t do that for all adjustment layers, but it is possible for many. That combines the best of both worlds: you have the color converted version of your layered file, but you still retain the layers for final editing.
The ColorLogic Suite consists of three products – ColorAnt, CoPrA and ZePrA. Do I need all three ColorLogic products to reduce waste?
For the greatest impact, yes. However, each product produces immediate results working standalone, integrated into an existing workflow, or synergistically with your current workflow to reduce waste by improving each step of the color management process.
Does ColorLogic offer other technology to improve color management?
The ColorLogic Suite, also called the Complete Color Management Solution, is geared toward agencies, prepress houses, offset, gravure, packaging, digital, large-format and multicolor printers, but major printing manufacturers are also incorporating ColorLogic’s technology into their own technology.
We have all this technology in the OEM [original equipment manufacturer] software developer kit (SDK) that manufacturers can integrate into their own solutions. This ranges from the linearization of the printer, total area coverage, optimization, profiling their devices, creating DeviceLinks, editing, saving ink, up to the high-end spot color conversion that we have integrated into our color server.
In the case of Durst, for example, its PPD software company uses ColorLogic technology to integrate color management into the Durst workflow. Another client – printing solutions developer ColorGATE – bases significant parts of its color management on ColorLogic technology. Color management works best if it is seamlessly integrated into the workflow. All kinds of manufacturers have their own workflows so, to make it easy for them, it’s better to integrate this technology into their product right away rather than having to use it as an external application.
“Our printer already has a built-in RIP with integrated color management. Why would I use ZePrA Smart Color Server?”
What I see more and more is companies using digital printers with different kinds of RIPs driving those printers. Often all those RIPs have different integrated color management. Very often, those printing companies are now disabling the color management in the RIPs and using ZePrA instead to create the color management. Not only does ZePrA offer better quality with extra functionalities that RIPs don’t generally have, but it’s easier to maintain the color management with one common user interface.
And, of course, ease of use, reduced waste, and enhanced efficiency and accuracy are the ultimate goals that have inspired all of our technology.
What is the cost of color management?
Costs are what it’s about in the end. Businesses need the bottom line to produce profits. Accurate and consistent color brings in the money. But waste is where you save it. Most of the waste occurs during the set up of a new job, and the best way to reduce it is to do all of your prep upstream. Anything you can do to reduce your prep time and get a better quality product is gonna be worth it. Printers want to keep those presses running and you don’t want to take time down from production to be color testing. With color management a quick update of the press profile and you’re ready to run. It’s a very efficient workflow. Color Management and profitability really do go hand in hand. Use the tools from ColorLogic and keep up to date with the latest color management technology. You can’t afford not to.
What is the leading force for ColorLogic’s drive to going green?
Each and every one of us at ColorLogic are environmentally conscious at home and at work. This is also very evident with our CEO, Barbara Braun-Metz who spearheads this pursuit who aptly states, “Sustainability is a fundamental part of everything we do. It shows in our dedication to improving color management to reduce the amount of waste. As innovators in the printing industry, it is our responsibility to not only our customers but our world. Being an eco-friendly company gives us the opportunity to invent, innovate and inspire. Achieving sustainability demands something from everyone, every day. This is good for the customer, good for business, and good for our environment.”
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