New developments in color-management tools, technologies, and standards.
If you think there’s nothing new in the area of color management, think again. Researchers and vendors continue to be hard at work developing new products, standards, and technologies to get color under control. In some respects, the idea of attaining perfect color control is an unattainable goal: Color, after all, will always be somewhat subjective, as we know every human eye sees color a bit differently. Nevertheless, new measurement tools, calibration hardware, profiling software, and some agreements on color standards have come a long way to giving print providers control over their color output.
Print shops utilizing wide-format technologies have long been constrained by other print media’s lower gamut capabilities. But the industry has seen a rapid increase in Web and cross-media production in addition to the lengthening of print’s color gamut. Increased color capabilities resulting from new inks (including ink models beyond the traditional CMYK gamuts) and ultra-bright papers for offset devices, plus the increased capabilities of some digital-imaging devices, have brought new demands on the industry. In many cases, the limitations of the old SWOP color gamut no longer apply. Customers are looking for more “pop,” more saturation, and more contrast in their wide-format output and are inclined to look at what they see on flat panel screens as the color standard to shoot for. The internationalization of print is also a factor in the requirement for a broader and more universal approach to color management.
Are you up to date on the new options that are available to you when it comes to color management? The list that follows includes some of the advances that have been made in the past 12 months or so (keep an eye on this magazine’s “R&D” section for newly introduced color-management technologies throughout the year). For the sake of convenience, I’ve grouped tools and technologies into three distinct categories: software, standards and training, and hardware and targets.
Cromanet - what’s old is new again: John Poore of Cromanet (www.cromanetcs.com) reports, “I, along with a number of others, have spun off and resurrected the old DuPont Cromanet RIP and are currently in the process of re-branding it as a color-management solution. Some of our new developments include state-of-the-art ICC profiling and a highly accurate color engine that is very competitively priced and includes multi-channel and expanded printing profiling. All of our technology is based on a spectral matching model that we have currently developed.”
The product includes Cromanet Color Manager for color profiling, characterization, matching, basic and advanced color editing; and digital print gamut optimization, supporting CMYK, RGB, and spot and special color data, Cromanet proprietary spectral-based profiling plus support for ICC input and output profiles and Cromanet color and substrate libraries for industry color match standards and popular substrates, including specialty media.
CGS color-managed output across multiple units: CGS (www.cgs-oris.com) has released a new version of its Oris Press Matcher//Web, designed to bring color-managed output across multiple presses, conventional and digital, including wide-format printers. The product is available as a stand-alone color server or as a color-link generator. The company also released Oris Aproove, an interactive Web collaborative approval tool for ad agencies and their clients. The interface features a decision-tree workflow and allows for unlimited users using client server architecture. And the company’s Oris Certified Suite has been extended to offer an enterprise-level business solution for the quality control of proof, press, and environment across customer sites worldwide with centralized monitoring, feedback, and support.
Apogee Color 7: One of the features in the new release of Agfa’s Apogee (www.agfa.com) is called Smart Input Space Color Recognition (SISR). It’s an Apogee Preflight Action List that automatically detects the most probable ICC profile for CMYK objects in a PDF document. Different action lists are available that warn in case of wrong tagging, or if the requested tag/untagged CMYK objects have the best matching profile. Other action lists use statistical analysis to apply the most recurrent ICC profile as document profile and as such can automate and optimize press repurposing. The Apogee system needs the Color Quality Manager license (ColorTune, the engine of Apogee Color) to get it working.
Curve2’s Virtual Press Run: A new feature in Curve2 software from Chromix (www.chromix.com) and HutchColor (www.hutchcolor.com) is an option called Virtual Press Run (VPR), which can eliminate the need for a second press run when doing G7 calibrations. Without VPR, the companies report, obtaining a press profile from a G7-calibrated press requires at least two press runs: one with null plate curves to calculate the G7 calibration curves, and a second to print the profiling target through the resulting plate curves to profile the press. VPR is designed to eliminate the need for the second press run; the G7 curves calculated from the first run are applied mathematically to the profiling target measurements of the first run, producing measurements that appear as if they were produced on a second “virtual” run. The applicability of the Curve2 tool to wide format is simply that it generates G7 curves. Wide-format shops might be interested in this because they can plug curves into their existing inkjet RIPs. Some RIPs have less-advanced calibration/color-management abilities and may benefit from a G7 approach across multiple RIP/Printer technologies to establish and maintain neutral gray balance.
ColorGate support for G7: ColorGate (www.colorgate.com) has unveiled a G7 calibration extension module, G7CM, for its ColorGate Productionserver 6 and Proofgate 6 RIP and profiling solutions. The module performs calibrations to meet the requirements of the IDEAlliance for the G7 standard for color reproduction. The support for the G7 standard based on the ISO 12647 standard to ensures that G7 is achieved for all the printing systems supported. The module includes a recalibration option to allow users to revert to reference output quality even when using ICC-based color management.
ColorGate also announced Fogra certification for its service employees as digital print experts. Employees receive intensive training on
Saving ink via ColorLogic: It’s no surprise that print providers working with wide-format technologies use a considerable amount of ink – which is where ColorLogic’s new CoPra (color profiling application) products come in, says the company. “Benefits in saving ink without degrading quality can be reached by using SaveInk DeviceLink profiles created with ColorLogic CoPra. These profiles can either be applied in the RIP or a ColorServer supporting DeviceLinks,” reports Dietmar Fuchs, product and project manager at ColorLogic (colorlogic.de).
Fuchs also explained how the company’s new DocBees product works: “Print shops need to print jobs from a lot of sources, mostly data without any assigned profiles to it. Which means that the color identity of those jobs is not clear and so the workers must do an intelligent guess to figure out the correct profile. DocBees ProfileTagger is a color-management pre-flighting tool that automatically identifies the profile that suits a CMYK separation best. In addition it checks if images in PDF/X files are correctly separated according to the given output intent. For example, the tool enables you to check whether the image data in a PDF/X file matches the output intent, or need to be "made to fit" by means of color conversion. It helps you prevent your data from being incorrectly converted in a downstream color workflow because of an undetected, incorrectly assigned profile.”
A plethora of X-Rite products: X-Rite (www.xrite.com) has announced its new portfolio of i1 Professional Color Management Solutions, including i1Basic Pro, i1Photo Pro, i1 Publish, and i1Publish Pro. All four versions feature new technology and applications: i1Profiler, X-Rite’s latest color-profiling software; new Pantone Color Manager color swatch bridging software; and ColorChecker Proof, a color checker chart for direct viewing analysis against a printed target.
PrintCheck and PressOptimizer are X-Rite’s automated print quality control and standardization solutions designed for printers who want to print to international ISO standards using industry specifications for process control like G7 or PSO. Users can also set their own tolerances. Wizard-driven software allows users to simplify workflows and follow a job through the production process.
A new enhanced version of X-Rite’s EasyTrax, a semi-automated press-side color scanning solution, also has been released. The new version supports Windows 7, and offers additional functionality for customers with perfecting presses to handle up to eight colors, support of Japan Color libraries, an enhanced Wizard-style editor interface, and a series of easy-to-follow animated tutorials. EasyTrax enables presses to support up to eight ink units with the advanced ISO/G7 module, whether using a CMYK, multi-color, or N-color workflow.
On the Pantone side of things, the new Pantone Plus Series was introduced in 2010, expanding the previous Pantone system with hundreds of new colors. Among the new features is a chromatic arrangement for more intuitive color selection, an index to aid in specific color location, a ColorChecker lighting indicator for finding the proper conditions for color evaluation, a ColorChecker primer for digital image color correction, and Pantone Color Manager Software. (See our July 2010 issue, pg 14, for an in-depth report on the new Pantone Plus Series.)
Colibri color-matching software: At the most recent Graph Expo, Konica Minolta Sensing Americas (www.konicaminolta.com/sensingusa) showcased the Colibri color-matching software designed for recipe formulation and correction of opaque, translucent, and transparent colors and inks. The software also optimizes the pigment load, preventing over-pigmentation in opaque inks. The template function allows the user to predefine the software features and screen layout so all functions not required are suppressed. This allows users to greatly simplify operations. Colibri has full enterprise network capability connecting users worldwide via the Web to share a central database. The Colibri software is produced by Switzerland-based Nexirius (nexirius.com); available in the Americas by premier distributor Konica Minolta.
ColorProof 5.2: GMG (www.gmgcolor.com) has introduced version 5.2 of its ColorProof, which now integrates Adobe PDF Print Engine 2.5 and adds improvements to the SpotColor Editor. It’s also compatible with the new GMG ProofControl Inline module, allowing for fully automated proofing and verification of contone proofs on Epson Stylus Pro printers with an integrated measuring device.
Onyx X10 simplifies color management: Onyx has debuted version X10 of its RIPCenter, PosterShop, and ProductionHouse workflow solutions. The new software, Onyx reports, simplifies color management while also improving file handling, delivering smoother color blends and gradients, offers better control of inks costs, and more. See pg xx for more detailed information.
Caldera’s smoother and larger gamuts: Caldera Graphics, in early 2010, launched its new v8 software version optimized for X-Rite iPrism and the Adobe PDF Print Engine. X-Rite’s i1Prism color-management engine contains a new ICC profile generator that enhances color separation and color matching in the Caldera print workflow. With this option, Caldera reports, users benefit from state-of-the-art algorithms to print colors that were not reachable using previous profilers with a higher accuracy than before. The resulting smoother and larger gamuts provide an extended and better color matching.
Standards and training
G7 certification: The IDEAlliance (www.ideallaince.org) has created an “Official G7 Master Printer and G7 Expert” database, which is now available on the IDEAlliance home page. The organization now offers G7 training classes and a Color Management Professional Certification program as well as a basic Color Management for Printing certificate. The Professional Certification program includes modules in photo and pre-media as well as printing.
CxF, a ‘universal container’: In response to an increased need for the interpretation of color data across media, X-Rite has developed CxF (Color Exchange Format), a file format designed to accurately and unambiguously communicate all commercially relevant aspects of color across devices, applications, and geographies. CxF is an XML (Extensible Markup Language)-based color specification applicable to any industry including design, print production, film and video.
CxF acts as a universal container for carrying the entire set of color reference data supplied by the content creator. CxF can include spectral color values, named colors such as Pantone, color spaces and appearance effects (specific lighting conditions, type of substrate, type of ink, density, opacity, transparency of the color, gloss, texture, position and shape of color patches), as well as commercial aspects, mathematical, optical conditions, etc. CxF is able to integrate data from ICC color profiles, CIE-Lab, XYZ, RGB, CMYK, Pantone, RAL, NCS, Toyo, HKS, and more.
XRGA instrumentation standard: X-Rite has also released a new instrumentation standard, XRGA (as reported in our December issue, pg 16). There are a couple of reasons for the new standard. One is that when Gretag and Macbeth merged, differences in the calibration standards used in the legacy product lines needed to be addressed. The process allowed the company to implement new advances in color technology to the calibration standards for ISO-13655. The company says, “For most of our products, the switch to XRGA results in very small differences in measurement values, so many customers will not need or want to make any changes. For customers who wish to update to XRGA, X-Rite will provide seamless means to move existing databases to the new XRGA standard.”
Andrew Rodney, owner of The Digital Dog in Santa Fe, New Mexico, notes that while this new standard for instrumentation has its benefits, it will also have, “effects on legacy data from non-XRGA standard measurements and those who will need to continue to produce data using newer, XRGA-compliant instruments.”
Hardware and targets
EasyColor spectrophotometer: The Spectro EasyColor from Caldera (caldera.eu) is an automatic reflection/transmission spectrophotometer for linearization and profiling of photographic and wide-format output devices for flexible reflective and transparent materials. EasyColor specifications include the ability to measure flexible materials with a thickness up to .07mm (paper, banner, canvas, canvas cover for trucks, backlit, film, etc.); measure targets with up to 3000 patches; measure the ECI2002 and IT8/7.4 chart in original size; measure aperture reflection (2mm ) and transmission (2mm). Its target markets are aqueous and solvent large-format inkjet printers, entry- to mid-range UV-cure flatbed printers, packaging, proofing, fine-art printing, and prepress. The Easycolor is driven by EasyMedia, Caldera’s integrated color-management, color-calibration, and profile-making solution.
Discus calibration: The Discus high-end monitor/projector/ambient calibration device from BasicColor (www.basiccolor.de) has been designed specifically to maximize profiling precision for today's wider gamut LCD and LED displays. The device is built out of machined aluminum, uses fade-resistant glass filters, and incorporates a laser aiming device for off-display measurements.
Measuring color, density with Konica Minolta: Konica Minolta Sensing Americas also has released a new series of spectrodensitometers. The FD-5 and FD-7 are handheld models that can measure density and color while taking into account the fluorescence of the paper substrate. They use Konica Minolta's Virtual Fluorescence Standard (VFS) technology that enables color evaluation while taking into consideration the fluorescence of paper under D50 (the standard light source used for color evaluation). The FD-7 meets the ISO 13655 M1 standard for fluorescence and color measurement; it also includes an Automatic Wavelength Compensation feature that automatically calibrates in the wavelength direction when white calibration is performed.
Capsure for matching colors: Pantone’s Capsure is a handheld device that lets users instantly measure and match a color source – everything from small, patterned, multi-colored textures and textiles to walls and carpeting. Created for professionals in fashion, home furnishings, interior, industrial and graphic design, Capsure allows users to quickly identify colors from any surface, material, fabric, or other color source and match them to a Pantone Color. The device uses tri-directional image-capture technology, illuminating the surface being measured from three different directions while simultaneously recording 27 color-accurate images in 1.6 seconds; Capsure then extracts up to four dominant colors so the viewer can identify the desired color and users can preview what they are measuring on its 1.75-in. color screen, in real time. Capsure can record the last 100 colors measured for later reference, and allows users to annotate colors with a voice recording as well as a time and date stamp. Additionally, the device provides harmonious shades and identifies related colors that are lighter, darker, or similar in tone to the identified color. Capsure comes pre-loaded with all Pantone Color Libraries allowing users to match more than 8000 colors.
Profiling via SpyderCheckr: Datacolor (www.datacolor.com) has released a new color chart for camera profiling. Called the SpyderCheckr, it’s designed to compete against X-Rite's ColorChecker Passport. Like the Passport, it has software that produces DNG profiles from a chart image. The product includes a neutral gray target and gray ramp for in-camera white balance and visual neutrality analysis and extensive skintone samples for portrait and fashion photography. The targets are replaceable and FadeCheckr, a light sensitive patch to warn you when its time to replace the Target Sheets, is also included. The software interacts with Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Elements, and Camera Raw to produce calibration presets for the user’s workflow.
Universal test target: Tools to verify digital capture such as the UTT (Universal Test Target) from Image Engineering (www.universaltesttarget.com) and the Golden Thread from Image Science Associates (see below) allow users to manage the digital-capture process. The UTT is a single test target that’s designed to provide insight into the complete image quality of all types of high-end cameras and scanners following the current ISO standards. The target is available with various options in the DIN sizes A3 to A0, making it suitable for all kinds of digitization projects.
Analyzing images via Golden Thread: Image Science Associates’ (www.imagescienceassociates.com) Golden Thread is a sophisticated image analysis package that includes two quality targets that incorporate the necessary features to specify and assess the quality of your imaging system, including: 12-step Spectrally Neutral Patches for measuring the Opto-Electronic Conversion Function (OECF), color neutrality, and noise; 18 Munsell color patches to assess color encoding accuracy; neutral density patches to assess uniformity; and a “Slanted-edge” feature for measuring spatial frequency response and color plane registration.
PIA’s wide-format test form: The new 20 x 40-inch Wide-Format Inkjet Test Form from The Printing Industries of America (PIA, printing.org) is the organization’s first test form designed exclusively for evaluating inkjet equipment. The test form comprises 18 test elements, all developed specifically to help printers gauge the performance of wide-format inkjet devices. Companies can use the form to generate color-management profiles to improve a device's color output. The new form is also designed to help printers compare the print capabilities of various wide-format inkjet equipment so that work can be directed to the right device. In addition, users will be able to more easily spot and correct problems that might otherwise create waste and customer complaints, PIA reports. The form’s Open Designation Region includes two 8.5 x 12.5-inch areas that are left open so the user can add his own choice of color-management images, ink and substrate targets, artwork, and client-specific images; several free images and targets are included with the form for that purpose.
Voglesong ColoRef: The Voglesong ColoRef 1.0, is a Color Reference Material (CRM) compliant with ISO 15790-2004. Designed to be durable, uniform, and stable, it can be easily read by scanning, strip-reading, and handheld spectrophotometers, and is designed to tell users which of their devices are accurate, which require recalibration or which should be upgraded or replaced. NIST-traceable, it’s distributed by FineEye Color Solutions (fineeyecolor.com). FineEye Color recently released its ICEserver 3.0, which adds a new ICC color management pre-processing features and a tone-correction tool.
Choose a point person
Yes, color will always be an ongoing battle – it’s inherent in the nature of output and in the subjectivity of those evaluating it (both shop and client). One key, however, is to have someone in your operation stay up to date on what technologies are available to you to ensure that color is initially correct as possible and that makeovers are kept to a minimum.
In Tempe, Arizona, for instance, print provider bluemedia has its VP of production, Hayes Holzhauer, as that point person. Holzhauer has been instrumental in implementing a G7 workflow into the shop, “because G7 is quickly becoming the standard for calibration in wide format,” he says. And he also ensures the shop’s other color-management tools are kept up to standard, including RIPs, monitors, printers, and any other related technologies. By doing so, the shop is better able to control color from input to output.