Printing and Purchasing

Posts tagged ‘Color’

Print Quality

Do print buyers care about print quality? As I look at printing in the marketplace it gets me wondering if print buyers care about quality. I am not talking about the minor variations found in the normal production tolerances of equipment, but excessive variations as the following images show.

These two photos illustrate extreme variation or poor printing. These brochures came from one CVS store display rack. The main issues were folding, color, and cracking. The sources of these issues are:


  • Cracking can be caused by not scoring the substrate and laying the brochure on the form with the folds going against the grain of the substrate.
  • Folding issues can be caused by many problems such as: Out of register backups, substrate bouncing during the press run, poor trimming, and folder not setup properly.
  • Color inconstancy can be caused by fluctuating ink densities, water and ink imbalance, press not calibrated. To minimize color variation some printers print a PMS ink instead of process builds, however the gray appears to be a PMS and it was inconsistent too. This press appears to be out of control.

There are three key results purchasing looks for, Price, Delivery and Quality. Quality printers will deliver on time and provide competitive pricing because they have minimized waste caused by poor quality. Hopefully this buyer received a great price because this wasn’t a quality printing project.

Is your printing inconsistent? Share your story.

I’m Dreaming of a R237, G252, B255 Christmas

The following article written by Paul Deuth, provides a unique color perspective, his website is .

For those who don’t see color in RGB numbers, you may enter the RGB references into the following website for a visual reference,

There are times of the year when color is more important. Here in New England, in the fall, we make a big fuss over the changing color of the foliage, especially our trees. This is a cultural thing, something we hold as a community, something we pass down year to year. Christmas and the Holiday season is another such period. We have, as a culture, designated certain colors to be important, we go to lengths to display and decorate with colors, and we include colors in our songs, songs which are cultural property and icons, repeated every year. As a color geek I will examine a few of these musical references.

The first song that comes to mind is the old Bing Crosby standard, “I’m Dreaming of a RGB (237, 252, 255) Christmas.” Your first reaction, of course, will be, “Why those numbers? Why not (255, 255, 255)?” Good question. That raises a bunch of issues. First, a statement of the obvious, just to establish us with the theory: color has three elements – a light source, a sensor, and an object;
in this case the object is snow and the light source is not specified. Nor is the sensor or observer. I have chosen a bit of a blue light source, something just a bit cool, and something more typical of what we might perceive as a “typical” winter day. Granted that cloudy days are common during the winter, and granted that, here in the upper latitudes where there is snow, there is more time spend in the absence rather than the presence of a light source, I still chose a slight blue color cast to the light source. Choosing another will change our perception of the snow.

I admit to another bias as well. I chose an object, a snow sample, pure and pristine. There is no pollution or chromatic degradation in my snow sample. That, in reality, is not always the case. Indeed, most people live in groups, away from pure and pristine sources of snow samples; their perception of the color of snow will be different, in their native habitats, than if we transport those observers away from the comfort of their homes and apartments. Many, if not most, will decline our invitation to go look as pure and pristine snow far away and out in the cold.

On the other hand, there will be a larger area, a larger sample, of snow-object to perceive, given that more space is available outside urban and suburban areas from which to sample. There is nothing inherently democratic about snow or snowfall, so seeking to define color by the number of observers, rather than the size of the snow sample/population, is a poor argument. Nevertheless, the fact remains that snow, as a colored object, will have different colors, even if only slightly different in the “pure and pristine” state.

Why use the RGB color model? Well, it’s difficult to assign a number to snow and it’s not so easy bringing a sample into my workroom to measure with a spectrophotometer. My best choice of technique is to use a calibrated and characterized digital camera as a sensor or observer. Those devices normally separate the natural spectrum in the RGB color space. This is the basis for this choice. I can convert those numbers, with a particular degree of confidence, into LAB or HSL numbers in those color spaces, but haven’t bothered to do the statistical analysis necessary to create such a confidence interval. Forgive my lapse, please, in the Spirit of the Season.

There is another popular song which comes to mind. It was a play on the Crosby recording, I’m quite sure, some kind of a cultural statement or critique on what the Crosby song, and Crosby
himself, represented. The song was recorded and popularized by Elvis Presley, who, at that time, represented something very different, culturally, from Mr. Crosby. I’m referring, of course, to the hit song, “Lab (31, 51, -99) Christmas”. Again, as before, I chose that particular color. My reasoning is that the color reflects a certain sadness or regret or heartache, and that ought to be reflected (no pun intended) in the choice of color. So cheerful hues and tones were rejected and something more purple was chosen.

I can design a study to more scientifically determine the particular color such an emotional state elicits. The song under examination here specifies a particular condition: the sweetheart of the singer has just ditched him, and he’s aware of not only his sadness and loss, but of how this contrasts with our cultural expectations for the holiday season, highlighting further, one must
assume, such a sensation of sadness and loss. Now, finding such a sample of ditched sweethearts would be difficult and expensive; creating such a sample would be cruel, and contrary to the Spirit of the Season. While I might justify the sacrifice of my subjects in the name of science, at the end of the day the resources necessary for such a study do not exist. Perhaps the reader will contribute their own choices, which we might average in some agreed upon manner. By the way, the Lab color space was chosen to reflect the human commonality of sadness and loss; it’s a “universal” experience, so the “universal” space was adopted.

It was just the day after Thanksgiving, that Friday, when I heard the season’s first (local) broadcast of “Rudolph the RGB (230, 0, 0)-nosed Reindeer”. My first reaction was, “Not already,” in anticipation of a month of such songs. Yet there it was, coming over my car radio as I drove in a yet to be snow-covered landscape (see above). We must be aware that this is a very different color model. That particular nose was an emissive source, making the additive, rather than the subtractive, model the appropriate choice. The particular choice, above, is again mine; you are welcome to make your own. I chose a rather pure hue, totally saturated, but slightly diminished in brightness. I am allowing Rudolph a bit of compassion, earned by his tireless dedication to leadership and the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of children everywhere. Even such an admirable reindeer is permitted a bit of fatigue, I think.

The RGB model or space is the best descriptor or model for emissive, additive color. It’s not device-independent, but in this case we’re examining a very particular, very special, and very valuable light and color source: Rudolph’s wonderful snout. It’s a wonderful image and I can almost hear the jingling bells.

The segue leads me to the old standard, “HSB (0,0, 80) Bells”. This is a tricky one, I think. Are those bells simply grey? What, precisely, in the construction of the bells in question? This deserves a bit of analysis and definition. Bells might be made of silver, but making a bell of pure silver would be a poor choice from both the sound rendering capability and from the durability and reliability specification or requirement. Most are, in fact, made of bronze, a metal certainly not appearing to be any sort of grey or silver. What the song most likely refers to is a chromium-plated bronze bell. Now, this is a bell of a different color, to mix metaphors. We have introduced gloss and specularity into our measurements and equations now. And we have, most likely, changed our color away from a pure grey to something with a more definite hue. Is chrome a color, or is it a process, or is it the
metal used in that process? There are vendors who sell different hues or colors of chrome, and we can argue that chrome, more than most objects or materials, reflects rather than modifies the light falling upon it. In reality, then, assigning a color specification to the bells is difficult, and made more difficult when the specular or gloss component must be included.

While this analysis does have some value, there is something wrong with it. That error is foundational, I think, coming from the very concept of the study. Assigning specific values to what is the realm of culture, cultural memory, and sentiment must fall short from the beginning. While science and technology has definite use and value, such usefulness does not universally apply. In the end, dreaming of a white Christmas, or feeling blue that one has lost ones sweetheart, or enjoying the image of a magnificent reindeer with his glowing nose, and the images brought to mind by silver bells, seems to satisfy the requirements of the cultural customer much better than specifications rendered by science and color science. In the Spirit of the Holidays, then, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Holidays, and a Happy New Year to one and all.

Some possible snow colors, in the RGB model:
 (237, 252, 255) as described in the article
 (255, 255, 255) as a more theoretical choice
 (213, 227, 229) for a less bright setting
 (212, 187, 158) for a dirty snow

The entire lyrics for “Blue Christmas”:
I’ll have a Blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me
And the when those blue snowflakes start fallin’
That’s when those blue memories start callin’
You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas
I got something more purple from this; your reaction and choice will be different.

While the Number One hit of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was sung by Gene Autry, it’s notable that a year or so later a Number Six hit of the same song was recorded by Bing Crosby, the same artist who sang “White Christmas”. Those two songs are the largest sellers and/or money earners of any Holiday season songs. And, as we have demonstrated, both are concerned with color.

There is an entire body of work on the effects of gloss and reflection on the perception of color. In general an increase in saturation is observed with an increase in gloss. However, in this case we’re examining a neutral or near-neutral hue or color, and a material that acts more as a reflector of light than as light’s modifier. We might discuss this in much detail, even while humming the song, “Silver Bells.”

My color engine of choice here was Adobe Photoshop. There are other color engines, but this is the one I most often use. It does the job and does it well. It’s familiar in our area, and trusted as a good tool. My personal color settings for this were:
 RGB: Adobe RGB (1998)
 CMYK: Coated Fogra39 (ISO 12647-2)
 Engine: ACE
 Intent: Relative Colorimetric with Black Point Compensation

We got, last night, around 7 inches of new snow here in rural Connecticut. I must go outside shortly to remove it from my automobile and driveway, the better to get to work tomorrow. (Today is Sunday, December 15, 2013). On top of that snow is a coating of ice and sleet. I must admit that my thoughts will not be so pure and pristine as I shovel that stuff. That color, by the way, would be something like Lab (42 ,21, 54), but let’s not let this detract from the Spirit of the Season.

I trust you enjoyed Paul Deuth’s color article. Paul’s website is

I trust you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

How to Ensure all Printers Print your Color Consistently!

When multiple printers are required to produce your printing, are they all producing the same look or color? If your corporate color isn’t consistent, consider the following;

  • Content/Asset library: Maintain a single source library where all images are stored. These images have the latest corrections. This is critical since many times the client uses an image and during the proofing process requests corrections. The master content library should be updated with the corrected image, when approved.
  • Profile press: Confirm that each printer periodically is verifying/adjusting their proofs to represent what each press will reproduce.
  • Color Proofs: Review hard proofs in a viewing booth with original art. Only review soft proofs on a calibrated [daily] monitor. Before utilizing soft proofs, have each printer verify their profiled presses/hard proofs are verified on the customers soft proof monitor. When viewing soft proofs use original art when available. Concerns using soft proofs include; how will spot varnishes, coatings or other finishing operations be confirmed that they align and trap properly? How will intricate folds be verified and confirm that images align when there are no hard proofs?
  • Viewing Booth: If color is critical, confirm that the viewing booth is correct and lighting is calibrated and at the correct temperature. [It takes 10 to 20 minutes for 5000k lamps to achieve correct temperature]
  • Printers Bars: Request six [6] consecutive full press sheets from each press sign off. Confirm that the press is not slurring, doubling, and the ink density for each color is correct.
  • Original art: Available as a reference when reviewing proofs or press sheets.
  • PMS Books: Confirm age of PMS book. The older and the more a PMS book is utilized the less accurate it becomes because light will denigrate the ink/colors. The other problem with PMS books is they are manufactured and with any process there can be variation between books. If certain PMS colors are important it is best to provide ink drawdowns.
  • Ink Drawdowns: Corporate colors are associated to a PMS color, however many times when ink drawdowns are provided via the printer they need to be adjusted to match the clients color and labeled accordingly, e.g. PMS 123 ABC. To ensure all printers start with the same color, send ink drawdowns, along with wet ink samples, for the substrate being printed.
  • Stock: Have all printers printing on the same substrate. The color of the substrate can change the color being reproduced.
  • Process Builds of PMS: Consistently use the same process builds, since one project may be built using several software programs and each may build PMS colors out of process differently. Your company may also want to adjust the standard tint build to improve the color reproduction.
  • Wet Samples: When ink drawdowns are approved a small container of the ink used for the drawdown is filed for future use. Wet samples don’t deteriorate as quickly as ink drawdowns or PMS books.

If I can assist with any questions, an audit or consulting project, in regards to printing or purchasing, please contact me via e-mail at

Do You Care About Color?

When you see or pick up printed items, do you review their quality? Do you notice when the color is not correct or there is color variation? Quality represents the items construction, color, and reproduction consistency. When I pick up a printed item, I review the print reproduction; is the type clean or filling in, are the images in register, the construction of the piece; do crossovers align and is the color consistent for example? In fact last week I picked up a newspaper with an image out of register, a coffee cup with printed type that wasn’t clean, a catalog with crossovers that didn’t align and a flyer whose logo was the wrong color!

When checking color there are several basic items that need to be reviewed.

  • Registration: Before reviewing color confirm that the images or tints are in registration.
  • Printer Bars: Confirm the press is not slurring, doubling, and the ink density is correct.
  • Lighting: If color is critical, confirm that the viewing booth and lighting are correct and calibrated. Lighting should be 5000K [kelvins].
  • Original art: If available use as a reference when reviewing proofs or press sheets.
  • Proofs: If available use as a reference when reviewing a press sheet.
  • Memory or identifier colors: Memory color are images that everyone knows what color they are. Examples of memory colors are; the sky is blue, grass is green, and stop signs are red.
  • Corporate logos: Logos are corporate identifiers and should be reproduced consistently, otherwise the inconsistency it will take a longer time for the logo to becoming a memory color. For example a logo like Gulf Oil LLC is orange; it should never look red.
  • Skin tones: Skin tones should always look natural. A Caucasian shouldn’t appear red, like they are sun burned [unless of course that is the subject matter], or lack color like they are jaundiced.

If I can assist with any questions, an audit or consulting project, in regards to printing or purchasing, please contact me via e-mail at

How do You See Color?

Color is everywhere we look today. Whether you are watching television, on your computer, you are outside, or reading printing, color is everywhere. Those in the printing industry know the importance of good color reproduction and the obstacles or limitations faced in that reproduction and the viewing of that reproduction.

“Color or colour (see spelling differences) is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, blue, yellow, green and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light (distribution of light power versus wavelength) interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors. Color categories and physical specifications of color are also associated with objects, materials, light sources, etc., based on their physical properties such as light absorption, reflection, or emission spectra. By defining a color space, colors can be identified numerically by their coordinates.”

Some of the obstacles or limitations faced in color reproduction or viewing are:

– Physical limitations

  • Color Blindness
    • Deuteranopia
    • Protanopia
    • Tritanopia

–  Lighting

  • Stray light
  • Glare
  • Light reflections
  • Ambient Light
  • Fluctuation in room Lighting
  • Color temperature

– Equipment or process capabilities

  • LED, LCD
    • Brightness
    • Contrast
    • Color temperature
    • Lithography, digital printers, etc.
      • Pigments

–  Substrates

  • Color
  • Surface

If there are color issues, hopefully the physical limitations of those reviewing color have been tested and reviewed. The following web links illustrate what color-challenged individuals see.


Have you taken a color test? Try one or all of the following tests to see if there are any challenges you have seeing color.


The Ishihara Color Test for Color Blindness


FM100 Hue Test by X-Rite [Farnsworth Munsell]


Color Arrangement Test

The Daltonien Test

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