Why should you care about Colour Management?

When it comes to print production and digital imaging we have two options. The first is to not take responsibility for the colour and to assume that prepress or the printer will look after it for you. In the past that was considered an appropriate way to handle colour. But with the streamlining of production in most print facilities, the prepress department is now only one or two people. These individuals are doing a number of jobs and workflow automation is passing your jobs through the workflow with very little human intervention.

The other option is for you to learn a little more about colour management, to be proactive and to ensure your images are prepared in the appropriate way. The unfortunate reality is that responsibility is moving downstream to the content creators, photographers and graphic designers who are now looking after substantially more of the prepress responsibilities. That is a fact.  You can choose to embrace it or turn a blind eye to it. If you want to embrace it read on.

When it comes to print production, time is money and every time we need to do a revision we are wasting more time and spending more money. Colour management helps to reduce the amount of time it takes to bring a product to market, reduce costs and avoid problems due to clients complaining about colour.

Below are the basic recommendations when implementing a colour management workflow:

Step number one – Monitor Calibration and Profiling

Calibrate and profile all of your displays within your studio. This is the least expensive and best possible ROI you can do. Monitor calibration systems cost less than $300 and one system can legally calibrate multiple displays in one location. Once all the monitors are calibrated you’ll begin to see consistency between all displays. This process should be done once a month.

Step number two – Your Environment

If you want to create consistency and repeatability then you need to consider the lighting in your work environment. Lighting can come in two forms, natural light and artificial light. Ideally, we want to reduce the amount of bright sunlight, as this will substantially change what you see on screen. Our eyes adjust to the colour of the light illuminating our surroundings and this changes our perception of the colours on the screen. Ambient light can be altered by the type of light used to illuminate the room, as well as things such as coloured walls and surfaces that the light bounces off. This means we don’t want to evaluate colour in front of a bright orange wall.

Next consider replacing the fluorescent bulbs in your office with what is called “natural daylight bulbs”. This is a cheap and simple way to reduce issues with inadequate lighting. Obviously, the best solution is to purchase a dedicated light booth but this may not always be the case.

Step number three – Application Settings

The main application we need to worry about is Adobe Creative Suite. Adobe hasn’t changed the colour management options in their software for a number of years so the following recommendation will apply to all of the versions of Adobe Creative Suite. For most people the U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2 will be your default CMYK Working Space. Next we need to establish how you will deal with embedded profiles and what to do when they are different. I like to set this to preserve the Embedded and to ask When Opening. Below are my recommended settings.

This area can be a lot to digest. If you want to learn more you can go to my YouTube Channel called “Colour Management Channel” it has lot of videos on this topic.

***Screenshot #1 here***

Step number four – PDF Exports Settings

This is often overlooked and you can easily convert your colours without knowing. If you are converting, know what you are converting to and use the correct profile or se

t the Colour Conversion to No Conversion. Some companies supply PDF Export Presets, supplied as .JOBOPTIONS files, are also settings files that provide a fast and foolproof way to install the appropriate settings needed to export a print-ready PDF file, check when exporting your file to a PDF to ensure you comply with the specified guidelines from the printer or publisher.

***Screenshot #2 here***