Live from GCIC: Color commentary

Naples, FL–Despite the clouds and threat of thunderstorms, Nov. 21 has been a “colorful” day at the Graphic Catalog and Insert Conference (GCIC) here. In a four-hour session entitled “Color Sells,” panelists discussed the impact of ink, prepress, and paper on the color presentation of printed pieces.

When discussing the impact that prepress has on color, Target Corp. color quality manager Lon Weis emphasized that the process now begins in the photo studio. Thanks to digital photography, digital proofing, and desktop programs such as PhotoShop, color quality is more predictable and consistent than it was just a few years earlier.

In fact, cataloger/retailer J.C. Penney Corp. quality standards manager Ron Brathwaite praised PhotoShop for allowing more catalogers to bring prepress functions inhouse. He also noted that photo criteria need no longer be so stringent, now that colors can be changed, shadows modified, and props removed using the software.

But all of this production technology increases the need for communication among members of the team throughout the prepress and printing process, Brathwaite added. Everyone has an influence over the color results along the way, so everyone needs to understand the impact of any changes as well as the overall goal of the printed piece.

To help communications, Brathwaite suggested keeping proofing notes clear and concise, standardizing as much as possible from project to project, and speaking in precise terms. For example, saying to your printer “bring up the red” is more effective than “this needs to be pinker,” since color is so subjective.

Vern Bush, print services manager for office supplies cataloger Quill Corp., discussed how paper texture and other variables affect printability and color. For instance, rougher sheets use more ink than smoother paper, which can influence the color outcome. Bush also suggested that, if optimal color quality is a priority, you might consider slowing the press, even though it will cost you more in press time.

From there, Jason Kendeigh, manager of catalog quality assurance for apparel and outdoor gear cataloger L.L. Bean, pointed to the budget restrictions that most catalogers are feeling due to the economy and the postal hikes. In many cases, switching to lower grades and lower basis weights means greater color challenges. Also, higher signature page counts due to bigger presses can influence the color quality.

Kendeigh suggested customizing the press with gradations and curve settings that match the bulk of your product representation. And when you talk to your printer about problems with color, don’t lead them with suggestions. Instead, present the press crew with the problem, then let them do the troubleshooting, since they’re generally more knowledgeable about the fine points of the presses.

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