Print Quality Consultants
Color Reproduction Issues
Process Control & Calibration

Color Problems that Print Buyers Face
Despite huge investments in equipment and technology, commercial color printing is still an art. To prove (or disprove) this, send a test file (without a proof) to each of your printers, and request a critical color proof. Then, order a small press run from each printer on both coated and uncoated stocks. Pull ten sheets from each run, compare them to each other, and to the proofs.

Even an experienced print buyer will be surprised by the extent of color variations. Why then, with all the technology at our disposal, is printing still an art? There are many reasons, but the bottom-line explanation is that there are no color standards for the commercial printing industry. Furthermore, half of all printing company owners are opposed to color standards.

Color problems are not confined to differences among printers. They begin with photography, and extend through the entire creative process. The creative process is made up of many sub-processes, each with its own color definitions. Whenever an image moves from one sub-process to the next, there's potential for problems.

Consequences of Color Problems
Color problems cost print buyers a great deal of money. If you've ever paid a printer for color alts, you've seen the tip of the iceberg. Most of the costs are hidden in the form of creative work, prepress work, and budget inflation. Here are some ways that color problems cost you money.

  • Color alteration charges from printers.
  • Color alteration charges from prepress houses.
  • Color alterations to previously used or approved images.
  • Color proofs made after a job is approved.
  • Time and travel for press checks to ensure good color.
  • Reprints to correct bad color.
  • Jobs awarded on the basis of quality concerns, rather than price.
  • Budgets inflated to cover color alteration costs.
  • Schedules missed because job had to be pulled for color alts.
  • Quality expectations not met.
  • Inconsistency in the appearance of printed materials.
  • Data assets not reusable without color alts.

Color Standardization Program for Print Buyers
Printing cannot be considered a normal industrial process until there are standards. Without standards, there is no objective measure of print quality, and the print buyer must pay whatever it costs to get the desired results. There are currently no formal color standards for the commercial printing industry. Work is underway to correct this, but it may take several years to complete.

In the meantime, a corporate buyer of color printing may find it worthwhile to sponsor a private standards effort in the form of a Color Standardization Program. Our program is tailored to your specific needs and implemented, over time, with the involvement of your suppliers. Here is the outline of a typical Color Standardization Program.

  • General audit of the existing supply chain.
  • Audit selected jobs to estimate the extent and cost of color problems.
  • Recommendations on the feasibility of a color standards program.
  • Define and realize a corporate color standard.
  • Work with printers to implement the color standard.
  • Work with creative sources to implement the color standard.
  • Audit selected jobs to confirm success of the program.
  • Work with suppliers to solve any remaining problems.

Supplier Quality Certification Program for Print Buyers
If you buy printing for your company, you probably receive many calls from printing salespeople seeking your business. Generally, this is a nuisance, but when you are actually seeking a new supplier, it's a good idea to assess the technical competence of possible candidates. This is a time-consuming chore, and it is difficult for a print buyer to devise and evaluate meaningful tests. A supplier quality certification program will help you make the right decisions by providing accurate and impartial data on your potential vendors.