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Color, Managed

(February 2005) posted on Mon Feb 07, 2005

A little time, a little software, and a couple of pieces of equipment add up to better-looking equip

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"Color management was only a buzzword 5 years ago. Now
everyone recognizes it as a critical need," says Tyler Andrew, PR
manager for X-Rite. How critical? Well, TrendWatch, the industry
consulting and forecasting group, reports that 17% of production
and design firms, for instance, indicated they planned to invest
in color-management software in 2004, while 9% of those reporting
indicated they would invest in color-measurement tools or
equipment (also in 2004). These are big numbers for this area.

Color management has become critical for a variety of reasons.
For one, most workflows are becoming almost entirely digital
"?film is, if not dead, at least not doing well. That takes away
one of the main reference points for what the "right" color is, and
without such a hard-copy reference, it's vital that everyone is
speaking the same color language"?at least technologically.

"One of the things that's making color management grow,"
says Gary Theriault, account executive for ColorBlind, "is that traditional
proofing has changed. You can use a soft proof or an
inkjet proof much more cost effectively."

Also, print runs are getting shorter, which requires more efficient
operation. At the same time, the printing workforce is seeing
more turnover than it used to, so it's less likely that there will
be experienced color experts available to work on a piece. That
points to the need for "flying by instruments" and automation in
the printing process.

There are also changes among the customers of print vendors.
X-Rite's Andrew points to an increasing segmentation of the
market, with novices who need a relatively quick and easy solution
to getting good color on the one hand, and professionals
who need to manage color all the way through the prepress and
printing process at the other. Based on a study it commissioned,
X-Rite segments the market into three stages: Create"?having to
do with planning, design and capture, and review of images; Prepare
"?covering checking, fixing, and preparing initial proofs; and
Execute"?which takes the project through the printing press
stage. (As a result of this study, the company has divided its
product line to address those three markets.)