I find it very interesting when technology changes the way we do things. In this case it has to do with one of my favorite topics – colour. Colour is moving from individual computers to a shared cloud-based system. This change allows everyone in the production chain access to colour but more importantly it allows us to evaluate and store our colour in centralized libraries.
Before I talk about the way things are moving, let’s take a look at how we’ve been dealing with colour over the last 10 or 15 years. In a normal production workflow, colour is created by the design agency, a concept is created and the client hopefully will approve the design. Proofs are created to match industry standards and everybody signs off on the colour. The proofs usually follow the job and are the main source of assessment as jobs are printed. The individual who is running the press would make a subjective decision about colour matching and adjust the press to match the proof. The problem with this process is that we are relying on a number of external factors such as lighting, the eyes of the observer, the age of the observer, did the observer have a late night and how conscientious is the observer making the decisions about colour.
In a cloud-based system, colour is stored in a centralized location and colour tolerances are agreed upon long before jobs are even printed. When the job is printed, the press operator simply measures the colour and very quickly a comparison happens between the stored standard and the printed sheet. At this point the press operator is presented with a pass or a fail score. Now colour is no longer subjective and a very definitive stick has been placed in the ground, a stick that everyone in the production chain can reference.
The best way to determine colour matching is not with our eyes but to use a device to measure the two colours. But simply having a device to measure colour does not give us the information we need. We need to do a comparison between the two colours. In the world of colour a formula has been created called Delta E. Delta E is a mathematical formula that presents the user with a numerical reference as to how close two colours match. In a perfect world, a Delta E value of less than one is considered a perfect match. Getting a score of less than one is extremely difficult and can be very costly. More realistically, a score of 1-2 is considered very close, 3-4 maybe acceptable for most clients. But anything higher than a 4 should be a fail. But the good news is that you can determine how close you want your colors to match and decide upon a numerical value.
If you are involved in colour it would be wise to learn about Delta E. You don’t need to understand the formulas used behind the scenes, but it is useful to understand how you can use Delta E to better control colour.
In a cloud-based colour control system we are now collecting tons of data by taking measurements at the press and uploading this to a cloud. From this data we are able to assess a number of factors about an individual print provider. Imagine you are the quality control individual that is responsible for controlling the colour of your brand across multiple print providers. In the past it would be very difficult for you to collect statistical data on how well your providers were doing. But with a cloud-based system you are collecting data for every print run and that data is being uploaded to a cloud and being digested and presented in a way that can give you trending and a quality score for every print job.
I think what’s interesting to learn is that the most prevalent driving force to move this technology forward is not the print providers but the brand owners. Those that are responsible for colour are the ones that are most excited about this technology.
If you would like to discuss the individual aspects of these solutions feel free to email me.
Some cloud based solutions include:
GMG CoZone, Pantone LIVE, Chromix Maxwell, Schawk’s ColorDrive,ColorCert, and PressSign.