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Get to Great Color in Wide Format RIP-to-Roll Workflow

January 03, 2018

In the sign and display graphics business, as in many other segments of the printing industry, shorter runs and reduced cycle times can stress even the most efficient wide format printing operations. By implementing a color-managed RIP-to-roll (or RIP-to-rigid media) workflow, these operations can ensure that color is right the first time and every time to help speed work through the shop and meet color expectations.

Photo by Peter Saunders

Today we are share tips from our Color Experts that can help sign and display graphics businesses achieve consistent color, reduced waste, faster time to market and happier, more loyal, customers.

Tricks of the Color Trade for Wide Format

As with any color-managed workflow, if color is right from the get-go, there is less likelihood of error as the job moves through pre-press and production. This means ensuring all image capture and display devices – including cameras and monitors – are correctly color profiled and calibrated to ensure the printed cyan, magenta, yellow and key/black (CMYK) graphics match the originally captured and displayed colors as closely as possible. Not only will you have better printed output results, but you will capture more accurate images and be able to see color on the screen just as it will appear in print.

Luckily, there are numerous affordable tools available today for profiling and calibrating devices that comply with International Color Consortium guidelines. For example, X-Rite offers the i1Pro 2 and the i1Display Pro together with top-of-the-line i1Profiler color management software for the ultimate in flexibility and control over these important processes.

Substrate Color is Important

When a project includes multiple components printed on different materials, color can vary widely if not carefully managed. A trade show project, for example, might include polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other plastics for rigid components, as well as paper, vinyl and textiles for flexible signage. The white point of each base substrate can significantly affect the appearance of the printed output, so it is extremely important to take each material into account when developing and communicating color specifications for a given project.

Digital Efficiencies

When choosing and specifying color, using both physical and digital references is key. Designers love the tactile experience of choosing color from physical references such as Pantone fan decks or inspiration items. But today’s digital tools also make it easy to select and incorporate colors into a design, especially if screens are properly profiles and calibrated. When colors are specified digitally – using spectral values, or the “DNA” of color – there is much less confusion as the project moves through pre-press and production. PantoneLIVE Design, an Adobe plug-in, is an easy way to work with digital color standards.

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

Managing color is critical from design through pre-press, production and quality assurance. From specifying the proper Pantone Colors in the design phase, to using the i1Pro2 for characterizing and proof validation to the X-Rite eXact in the pressroom, each tool is critical in any color-managed workflow. Capturing spectral data not only ensures color standards are clearly communicated, but also provides an accurate way to measure and control printed results.

Shining a Light on Color

Another important component of a properly color-managed workflow is controlled lighting. Colors will appear differently under different lighting conditions. A light booth that features several different lighting modes allows for evaluation of color under all of the lighting conditions to which it will be exposed out in the world.

A Holistic Approach

Optimizing the color workflow using the tools and tips discussed here, from design through production, will help sign and display graphics operations deliver better color faster. If you still have questions, our Color Experts are ready to help!

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