Orange Coke Cans?! Not with properly optimized color output.
Would it be surprising to you if the Coca-Cola can you just bought from the office vending machine came out burnt orange in color? Probably. Coke (like many other companies such as FedEx, Google and even our company, Advance – The Document Specialists) has established very specific colors as part of their brand identity. They have done this so effectively, that their particular shade of red is often referred to as Coca-Cola red. In reality, if you’re Coke and your cans mistakenly get produced in burnt orange, they will never be seen by a consumer. Consistent and accurate color is that important to the company’s branding.
So, when it comes to your color office MFP (multifunctional printer), what can you do to ensure predictable and acceptable color output of your company’s corporate colors?
To achieve consistent color output, it is first important to understand the environmental factors that might be working against you. As discussed in a previous blog, relative humidity can have a negative impact on the quality of color output and the overall performance of your MFP. Optimal conditions are between 30% and 55% and can be measured by a hygrometer. Room temperature is another factor to be monitored. MFPs will produce heat as part of the toner fusing process. Longer job run lengths will obviously have the potential to create more heat. Therefore, having a high room temperature, combined with the heat produced by the machine, can have an adverse effect on image quality and device performance. Ideal temperatures should be between 68°F and 76°F. Paper, also discussed in a previous blog, can have a dramatic effect on color appearance. It is important to only use paper within the capabilities of your particular MFP. However, some basic paper guidelines include using only digital/laser paper, storing the paper properly to avoid excess humidity, and making sure the paper is acclimated, for at least 24 hours, to the environment in which it will be used for printing. Lastly, your perception of the color produced can be effected by the lighting used for viewing. Professional printers use a light box or a light booth that is set to represent day light (D50).
Once the printing environment has been properly setup, the MFP needs to be calibrated to achieve consistent and accurate color. This is first done through a process called Linearization. Many MFPs will refer to this as “Gradation Adjustment.” Basically, the MFP prints an internal color target page, which then is scanned on the MFP. The output is measured and the engine is automatically corrected. In color intensive printing environments, many companies use Fiery print servers, which are initially calibrated using Pantone, an industry standard color matching system. However, due to the environmental factors listed above, Fiery servers will also need to be recalibrated. This can be done by several methods. Two of the most common include using preprinted scales of color separations and shades of gray, and by using a spectrophotometer – a handheld device used to scan the MFPs printed output for measurement and adjustment. It is important to calibrate both the MFP and a Fiery for each media stock to be used. A reference target file can be printed and compared to previous prints to determine if recalibration is needed. Some basic times to calibrate include after a service call, after a long print job, and if multiple paper types are used.
By taking the previous steps towards color consistency (a proper print environment in place, a calibrated MFP and a calibrated Fiery print server), you can now focus on color accuracy. While most color MFP print controllers can give you a fair representation of color, using a Fiery print server will create more closely matched Pantone values. In addition, Fiery servers offer a color editor called Spot-On to ensure color accuracy from different source programs and across multiple print engines. With Spot-On, users can tweak the amount of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK) toner used to create colors. These custom created color “recipes” can be stored and used when needed. Another feature of Spot-On that can be used to achieve color accuracy is Substitute Colors. This is especially helpful when trying to produce consistent colors from various software programs such as Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Microsoft PowerPoint, which have different methods for creating color. Many Microsoft Office applications, including PowerPoint, use Red, Green and Blue (RGB) to produce color. Whereas, InDesign can use RGB, CMYK and Pantone colors. With Fiery Spot-On’s Substitute Colors, you can match RGB, CMYK and Pantone values across these different source applications.
For more information optimizing your color output, give us a shout. We can tell you about our marketing department customers who’ve had great color-matching success.