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Color-Management Aids

(August 2012) posted on Mon Aug 06, 2012

Take a look at the many aids available.

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By Tony Quinn

Color-data capture
Spectrophotometers measure the intensity of wavelengths in a spectrum of light and then compare that measurement with the intensity of light from a standard source. When using a spectrophotometer, color data can be reported back in several formats, but typically L*a*b* color space is used.
One of the most common spectrophotometers in the field would be is the i1 Pro by X-Rite (Figure 1). X-Rite recently introduced the new i1 Pro 2. Like the i1 Pro, the i1 Pro 2 is a hand-held device, which relies on computer software to capture the color data. X-Rite also has an i1iSis spectrophotometer, which captures color data one page at a time. The i1iSis is normally faster than a hand-held portable device, capturing the color data of 1500 patches in less than eight minutes, but limited to a paper thickness of 0.08-0.45 mm. So, if you have a material thicker than 0.45 mm, make certain to get a portable hand-held spectrophotometer.
Barbieri has introduced a hand-held spectrophotometer called the SpectroPad (Figure 2). This device is portable and includes a touchscreen. The SpectroPad does not require a connection to a computer to capture print data. The device can connect to a computer via Wi-Fi. The SpectroPad has a 6 mm aperture, which makes reading in low-resolution print data much easier. Because this device rides on top of the material, there are no limitations to material thickness.
When it comes to controlling color in press, the densitometer has been the device of choice for many years. A good densitometer is really still a must-have item for press control. Densitometers have matured to include the ability to read spectral data. It’s important when looking to purchase a densitometer to understand exactly what the device can do. The ability of the device will greatly affect the price of the instrument. For example, an X-Rite 508 device reads density and dot gain. For overall color control on press, density and dot gain are sufficient. But, if you print a ton of spot colors and need the ability to compare the color to a spot book or sample, then you need to make certain the device reads colorimetric (L*a*b*) data too. The 500 series from X-Rite gives you options. If you need spectral data, make sure to move up to either a 528 or 530 device.
It’s important to fully understand what measurements the instrument can deliver. For example, Techkon makes a spectrodensitometer called the SpectroDens. Like the X-Rite 500 series, the SpectroDens comes with different configurations. The Techkon SpectroDens comes with three types of performance packages: Basic, Advanced, and Premium. Each tier delivers different functions. The basic version delivers essential density functions, while the Advanced and Premium versions increase the functions of the device, all the way to colorimetry (L*a*b*) and color libraries.
My goal when talking about these devices is to make sure you understand that one device may look exactly like another device, but have different abilities. A good note about newer densitometers is that most of the time you can upgrade the device via firmware. Upgradability is another important thing to check for when evaluating an instrument. If the device has the ability to be upgraded, you could start out with a base model and then as the color requirements grow in your facility, you could easily upgrade.


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