Or More Appropriately, Process Control SHOULD Never Stop in Color Management
I had an instructor in a class I was taking say, “You can’t have color management without process control.” I thought about that for a bit and decided he was right.
One of the biggest constants in color management for printing is maintenance. The physical condition of the printer needs to be maintained. The environmental conditions of the printer need to be monitored. And of course, the profile of your printer needs constant process control if you want to achieve consistent and predictable color.
You Need A Strategy And Software Is Key
To create a profile and maintain a profile, you need two things: a measuring instrument and some kind of verification software to validate the profile. This is a huge part of process control.
SpotOn! Verify is a flexible powerful tool that helps you clearly define performance and control your print process. The Visual Match Scorecard shows you how visually consistent devices are, and the software provides tracking and trending data to help you print consistently over time.
So, Wait. What’s A Profile?
If you’re going to have a good color management strategy with process control, you need to understand what you’re trying to maintain.
A profile is a characterization of how a printing device prints at that moment in time when the profiling chart was printed. It takes into account all the variables that could affect printing such as environment, media, ink, substrate, print speed and resolution – again, at that moment in time.
Changing one of these variables can negatively affect the quality of printing. Therefore, the profile has to be maintained so that it can accurately do its job.
Process Control Through Verification
Let’s say you’ve created a profile for your printer that is giving you great quality print jobs. A couple of months later, you start to see that quality shift in the wrong direction.
Maybe you had to replace the ink or a printhead. Maybe you’re using a different brand of substrate than you were previously. Maybe the temperature or humidity changed in your printing environment.
What can you do?
Before you decide to re-profile the machine, it would probably be worth your time to print out a control strip, measure it against a specified target and use a verification software system to view the results. Many applications allow you to record the status of your printer over time.
By measuring charts and keeping a trend report, you are better able to see the results of how your printer is performing. You may find that the change you’re so worried about isn’t significant enough to warrant re-profiling the printer or you may find that it’s time to re-calibrate the machine.
If you do regular checkups on the profile of your printer and its performance through verification, you are using process control to maintain the condition of that printer.
In our next post, we will talk about how you can use those trending reports in verification software to control printing devices.