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Why is "color management" important?

Answered by Eric Neumann, Assistant Product Manager, Fujifilm

Why is "color management" important?

Color management has always been necessary in order to achieve predictable output from an input source. Companies that scan and print color have been doing color management for years (usually referred to as a "closed loop" form of color management).

Most often the scanner operators perform closed-loop color management by using their color separation experience to predict how the color will reproduce on-press, and thereby make the appropriate changes to the scan (in some cases the press operator can make small adjustments on-press that effect the color as well). But this scenario is only possible when the scanner and press are under the same roof. In today’s scenario, scans can come from many sources and the intended output may not even be known at the time of the scan. We are now in an era where "open-system" color management is required in order to get predictable color results.

There are several reasons to implement color management. The three basic areas where color management is most beneficial are during the color scanning, digital proofing and repurposing processes:

  • Color Scanning: Color management at the scanning stage will simplify the process and add consistency and predictability. Traditionally, a final scan was always a corrected CMYK file. This often required hours of preparation and rescans in order to get "good" color. (The scanner operators’ skills often justified them being some of the highest paid operators in a shop.)

    Today, with color management, the scanner need only be set up to produce a "raw" RGB scan with little or no corrections made at the scanner (a.k.a., "dumb-scanning"). The skill has not been eliminated, it has just moved from the scanner to the post-scan color workstations where ICC profiles are attached and color corrections are implemented, if necessary. Now a single scanner (and operator) can yield many more consistent scanned images over several color workstations.

  • Digital Proofing: Digital proofing has become more popular with the advent of computer-to-plate; with the loss of film (and film-based proofing) it has been necessary to find a reliable predictor of the press. The first digital proofers were insufficient at providing color that simulated the final output. Some devices could be "tuned" to predict a particular process, but they were limited to that single process. Direct digital color proofing (DDCP) evolved independently, but it arrived prior to color management (initially, this is why DDCP was not well-received).

    The combination of color management with digital proofing has been a revolution for the graphic arts industry. Devices with completely different color gamuts can now predictably and consistently be used to simulate color from the press. Color management can allow inkjet and dye-based devices to come very close to an exact color match of the ink-on-paper printing process, allowing the printers to use less expensive proofing options.

  • Repurposing of Images: The ability to repurpose an image is one of the key points of color management workflows. The color management software will allow the user the ability to preview and proof the images by simulating the final output process before any conversion of the image data is performed.

Source: Enovation Graphic Systems, Inc. For more information, please contact Eric Neumann, Assistant Product Manager, ColorPath at (800) 877-0555.

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