Colour Management: Developing a RIP-to-roll workflow

Digital workflows have helped users select colours and visualize them as they will appear on target substrates, such as canvas.
Photo courtesy LexJet

Let there be light
It is also worth noting the perception of colours changes depending on the lighting under which they are viewed. As such, controlled lighting should always be used whenever colours are visually evaluated throughout the process.

A light booth that features several different modes should allow for evaluation under all of the viewing conditions the graphics will experience in the field. One major example is light-emitting diode (LED) illumination, a final standard for which is currently in the final stages of development by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Six keys for colour

As print service providers (PSPs) aim to implement colour-managed workflows to help reduce costs and cycle times, while improving output quality, they should keep the following key instructions in mind:

  1. Make sure all image capture and viewing devices are profiled and calibrated. Do not depend on offset-centric techniques when working with digital inkjet or dye-sublimation printing.
  2. Always consider target substrates early in the design process and establish both master and dependent digital standards against which to measure colours at each step of the workflow.
  3. Use customized ICC profiles for output devices, fine-tuning them to take best advantage of each particular device, e.g. the expanded colour gamut of a digital wide-format inkjet printer.
  4. Use spectrophotometers as the primary physical means of evaluating colours, supplemented by visual evaluation. Make sure all of these instruments are aligned with each other for consistency.
  5. When visually evaluating colours, always do so under controlled lighting, replicating the various conditions under which the graphics will be displayed.
  6. Above all, establish standard processes to ensure effective colour specification, communication, measurement and management across the entire supply chain.

The best way to think of the process is not so much as ‘colour management’ in the abstract, but instead as optimizing colours for substrates, based on the applicable printing system. This may seem like a minor shift in thinking, but it is an important one, because it specifically accommodates today’s production technologies and demanding conditions when optimizing a shop’s workflow.

Sal Passanisi is a regional sales manager for X-Rite Pantone, which develops colour measurement and management hardware, software and services for the sign and display graphics industry. For more information, visit

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