Ensure Color Quality in Your Catalogs
Among the areas to discuss with your printer are the following: what the printer needs for digital imagery to work; the specific paper and ink used; plate- or film-making; and any printing standards used.
The printer must demonstrate that it has the process-control verification, Elsman stresses. Without it, “The drift in color will yield too much play,” he notes. All of these things affect the end result—the color your catalog customer sees on the page.
McIntyre argues that in web offset printing, “Great color still requires a skilled pressman to set color and registration controls.”
But it’s here that McIntyre believes digital technology has had its most positive and visible effect on catalog work. First, she says, computer-to-plate techniques have significantly improved on-press registration, yielding visibly improved color purity. And second, modern presses with real-time internal scanning of the printed paper are doing a better job of holding consistent press color, once the press is set properly.
McIntyre adds, “There’s no way to start with a great-looking product, end with a great-looking image of that product printed on catalog paper, and get there entirely without skilled intervention by human operators. You can get passable results with minimal human intervention, and each year the level of ‘passable’ improves.
“But,” she continues, “high-quality color still requires skilled human intervention.”
Managing the Mixed Workflow
A transition from an all-analog to a digital workflow is occurring, says Kenneth Elsman of Global Graphics Software. “Instead of film being passed around, there are CDs being passed down the hall.”
In the meantime, catalogers must work with the best of digital and analog systems in a combined workflow. Regarding the challenge, catalog consultant Susan McIntyre says, “With film, everyone is already decades down the learning curve, whereas with digital, everybody is still learning.”
For example, she explains that digital cameras capture a wider range of light to dark than a web offset press can reproduce, and digital operators have had to learn how and where in the digital workflow to cope with that.