By Cassandra Balentine
Color is often critical to wide format signage. bluemedia, a print service provider (PSP) of design, printing, and fabrication for vehicle, large format, and environmental graphic applications, places a core emphasis on correct color across all of its offerings.
Based in Tempe, AZ, the shop provides a range of services out of its 120,000 square foot production, design, and execution facility to those in the continental U.S. This includes backlits, banners, billboards, building wraps, concessions, fabric prints, custom fabrication, fence mesh, fleet graphics, floor graphics, hardware, kiosks, monuments, point of purchase, rex frames, stadiums, vehicle graphics, window graphics, and WrapCovers. Since its inception in 1999, the company has grown its operations to include more than 100 employees.
As indicated by its expansive service list, large format graphics are the essence of bluemedia’s business. Jared Smith, president, bluemedia, estimates that approximately 70 percent is wide format. The company employs a range of equipment, including two EFI VUTEk PressVu 200/600 UV flatbed printers, a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex FB700, two HP Scitex TJ8300s, four HP Scitex XL3s, an HP Scitex XL5, and two Mutoh America, Inc. ValueJet 64-inch printers. Finishing equipment from Fotoba International, GBC/SEAL, Graphtec America, Inc., Hiker USA, Inc., Juki America, Inc., Miller Weldmaster Corp., Monti Antonio S.p.A., and Zünd America are also used.
Touting G7 Standard
Color accuracy in print and G7 have become synonymous. Both are increasingly important to the digital wide format printing space. bluemedia is accustomed to color matching across its range of large format devices, a feat that is “extremely” important. “It’s what allows us to move so quickly without second-guessing the outcomes,” says Smith.
Part of bluemedia’s color strategy is its G7 certification. With G7, it is able to ensure that color proofs represent the customer file, and that the press sheets match the proof. It also eliminates the need for on-site press checks, improves make ready time, reduces material waste, and increases overall cost savings—all while guaranteeing color consistency is maintained throughout the press run.
In 2010, the PSP’s first employee received G7 certification. The move towards the certification was driven by several endorsements by industry experts as well as its proven track record. Smith feels that G7 is something clients now expect and that the standard will remain revered for some time. “I think the efficiencies of the path to get to G7 may change, but the overall theory and importance will not.”
bluemedia’s commitment to color is supported by its software. The company utilizes ONYX Graphics, Inc. Thrive software to drive various wide format solutions.
ONYX Thrive is a scalable print production solution based on Adobe PDF Print Engine technology. It is a true end-to-end PDF workflow from digital file submission through printing and cutting. The Thrive Production Manager browser-based user interface enables workflow control from anywhere, optimizing both operator and output device productivity.
According to Smith, ONYX surpasses other RIP solutions. “We have been an all ONYX shop for nearly 20 years,” he comments. “Every three or four years we evaluate other RIP software but always come back to ONYX for its enterprise abilities and its ease in getting to G7 color quickly.”
The shop utilizes the CATZper Spot Color Matching System from Nazdar Consulting Services. The software is designed to develop a single grid from a LAB reading of an intended color. The grid is then printed on the digital printer to help the operator and client choose the right match.
On the Job
While color is important to every job, color matching is more of a challenge for certain clients or particular applications. Smith recalls a recent job bluemedia produced as a result of its 2014 sponsorship of Motocross legend Jeremy McGrath, a seven-time AMA Supercross Champion.
The sponsorship includes production of all graphics and signage for McGrath’s trucks such as the race hauler, the semi-tractor, and the race truck. To maintain the competitor’s image and branding, all printed elements had to match—not only on day one, but throughout the season. Smith explains that in the event that the truck is damaged in a race, graphics for replacement panels need to be consistent and turned around fast, as there is no time for delays.
“We started the first vehicle body on February 14, 2014, final proof and print, the body design changed but the concept stayed the same. The semi arrived on Tuesday, March 18. We got it prepped and started installing the cab and trailer Wednesday, March 19, they were both completed along with three full bodies and six rear fenders on Thursday afternoon. Friday morning the rig rolled out of our facility and the public got the first look,” explains Smith.
The creative was submitted as a vector design from the team, along with a selection of photographs from previous years of McGrath’s Supercross events. From there, bluemedia worked with the client to make final color value decisions.
To ensure color accuracy, the shop began with Nazdar’s CATZper charts. “These allowed us to quickly present hundreds of shades of any particular color quickly. After the final choices were made, the charts provided LAB values, making the color easy to reproduce over time,” shares Smith.
Part of the design incorporated an electric yellow, which proved to be the most challenging element. “It was not really a predictable color to establish in Adobe Illustrator, as this target seemed to be almost an AstroBrite type of yellow,” admits Smith. The team overcame this issue with the help of the CATZper charts.
Finishing was another important element of the McGrath graphics. In order to hard laminate the pieces, the PSP allowed the freshly printed vinyl to outgas for 24 hours. “At this point, we sent all vinyl through a Zünd G3 Digital Cutter, quality control, and packaging department. Three days before the first race, which was coincidentally in Phoenix, AZ, the team showed up and we began the process of installing the graphics,” describes Smith.
Color is an important—yet automatic—element for bluemedia. “Having faith in our color management system provides us with the confidence to tackle high-profile jobs in short time periods,” concludes Smith. Tackling the unknowns prior to a big job allows the PSP to offer customers, such as McGrath, consistent output.
Aug2014, Digital Output