By Cassandra Balentine
When it comes to producing color accurate floor graphics, print service providers (PSPs) have a wealth of tools to help achieve the best results. This ranges from RIPs to ICC profiles, spectrophotometers, and color management software. Calibrating your devices and utilizing the proper media profiles is key.
Pivotal components in a floor graphic printer’s toolbox include RIP, color management, design, cutting, and workflow software, recommends Simon Landau, director, global strategic partners, PrintFactory.
Lou Prestia, product manager, print and packaging, X-Rite, Incorporated, believes ideal color management begins with color communication and standards.
The PSP must have the right measurement instrument and software in order to control, calibrate, profile, and evaluate the color capabilities of its digital printers. This allows them to give customers proper guidelines as to how to build the best design they can without a problem, offer Elie Khoury, president, and Fabrio Santoro, color management engineer, specialty printing applications specialist, Alwan Color.
“PSPs need to embrace modern color technologies to transform their printing process into a predictable and repeatable manufacturing process,” asserts Stephen Rankin, director of product management, Techkon USA. This includes building custom ICC profiles for their print devices and using them to ensure color accuracy across a fleet of print technologies.
“Creating ICC profiles based on technology, material, and ink will help ensure consistent and repeatable color,” offers Prestia.
Once in production, pressroom spectrophotometers and color quality software solutions provide actionable feedback to ensure color stays on track throughout production. “With predictable and repeatable color output, printers can drastically reduce makeready costs, increase profitability, and ensure customer satisfaction,” shares Rankin.
Generic profiles provided by some material suppliers are a great place to start to achieve pleasing color on a variety of substrates. “For many customers, this is enough,” says Kempf. However, she points out that demanding clients with the highest expectations of exacting color requires the ability of the PSP to generate custom ICC profiles via color management software typically included in a RIP. “A spectrophotometer is needed along with the training and knowledge of how to use these powerful tools. Once mastered, a PSP can engineer the best possible color outcome and match across multiple substrates to satisfy the most exacting client’s requirements,” adds Michelle Kempf, VP, sales and marketing, Continental Grafix USA, Inc.
“A RIP is critical in preparing files for printing a floor graphic. RIP software interprets the image data and converts it into a printable format, providing advanced features such as color management, tiling, and nesting, allowing for more efficient and accurate printing,” explains Landau.
Printing software that includes color engines and color management capabilities to achieve accurate colors from the combination of printer, ink, and media used is essential, stresses Sebastien Hanssens, VP, marketing, Caldera.
A spectrophotometer is another essential piece of the ICC profile build process during color management and works with the software to capture and evaluate color. “This is to ensure color in the software matches the printed output. It measures the light spectrum of the solutes on the surface of a material in detail and allows for much more sophisticated measurement than say a colorimeter using just three filters for an RGB value. Without a spectrophotometer, whether the device is internal or external, it would be guess work at best that the color output for the print product will be accurate. This would cause a drastic increase in the number of reworks as well as ink and media waste for the print business,” comments Jonathan Rogers, PhD, marketing, Onyx Graphics, Inc.
Nate Goodman, technical product manager, Mactac, says that a spectrophotometer matches the color the customer needs. “Samples should be printed so the customer can approve. The sample needs to be viewed in the correct lighting because that can impact how the colors are perceived.”
It is important to not only print images with accurate color, but also produce a smaller hard copy proof to transport to the final install location to preview the visual effect of the lighting in the location. “This may not be the entire design, rather it could simply be a smaller version or even a section of the most critical portions, such as the corporate brand colors,” notes Mark A. Rugen, managing director of learning and development, SA International (SAi).
Steve Yarbrough, customer experience manager, Neschen Inc., feels that color readers, ranging from portable devices to desktop units are a big help. “Conducting test print color proofs on the approved media, using a loop to look at colors side by side, along with getting client approval and sign off at location if possible is suggested.”
Set for Success
Calibrating the color on your machine and using proper profiles is the safest path to success.
It is essential to consider the basics. Matt Edwards, product manager, digital print media solution, General Formulations, acknowledges that it is best to use a consistent base material with the corresponding ICC profile for your equipment and perform a standard color calibration step as recommended by your printer manufacturer.
He says it is important to trust both the machine and the maker of the profile to point you toward the best possible outcome.
Becoming proficient in color management and having the right tools to create custom ICC profiles elevates a printer to another level of performance. Kempf feels that instead of hunting for a generic ICC profile that may generate pleasing color, a PSP becomes more self reliant and able to print on almost any substrate available, without worrying if a color profile is available.
Kempf compares this to having a vehicle capable of driving only on a paved road—a generic ICC profile—to having a vehicle equipped with the capability of driving anywhere you want to go. This would be creating custom ICC profiles.
Utilizing printed proofs can also prevent wasted materials and time. “Getting approval and sign off on proof prints from a client is a recommended insurance. Using a color meter gives quicker repeatable results,” says Yarbrough.
For color managing PDF files, Khoury and Santoro believe that calibrating and profiling the output process, as well as controlling the print result leads to consistent, predictable, and reproducible colors.
One way to create more profit in floor graphics is to limit the reprints should a design not meet critical color matching. Rugen says using soft proofing in SAi Flexi allows for accurate prediction of the output, and other tools will allow the user to make critical adjustments resulting in a print that is attractive while being color accurate.
Color management solutions provide value to the PSP by reducing waste and provide consistency and repeatability from run to run and across a diverse set of materials. “They help print shops address shorter cycle times, smaller runs, and cost control while meeting customer expectations for the highest possible quality and consistency,” shares Prestia.
“With an end-to-end color workflow, PSPs can be confident in their ability to deliver high quality, accurate, and consistent color across floor graphics. which is essential for meeting customer demands and delivering a successful product,” notes Prestia.
All customers are color conscious. “Within a printer’s toolbox, they need color management tools, such as a spectrophotometer, profiling software, and color managed print systems for proofing inkjet and final output,” says Prestia.
A designer creates eye-catching graphics that utilize clear, white, or eco-friendly materials. “Knowing which material best matches the intended surface is important especially if floor color may alter the perception of graphic color,” comments Yarbrough.
“Knowledge is power, and having a good understanding of the materials available and when it’s appropriate to use them leads to great installations and repeat business with less frustration and rework, not to mention the improved look and performance of using the right products,” adds Edwards.
While there are many tools required for a successful install of a floor graphic, Rugen feels a critical tool is the proper design and accurate color correction of the final product.
“At the heart, relationships and ongoing education are vital components to continued success for any printer, regardless of application,” offers Kempf. She says new and unique material is always on the horizon. It is important for PSPs to develop relationships directly with a variety of media manufacturers to stay abreast of the latest material technology available for various client demands.
May2023, Digital Output