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Managing Color for Consistent Customer Approval

(July 2008) posted on Mon Jun 30, 2008

Your command of color viewing and matching is critical to client satisfaction. Discover how to identify and remove the variables associated with these processes.

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By Mark A. Coudray

As a foundational baseline, let’s summarize the variables for each viewing perspective. Viewing color temperature is D65 (6500° Kelvin) in emissive conditions. Now we must consider the differences between LCD and CRT monitors. The former is notably more stable over time than the CRT monitors of old. The type of calibration software we use (see “Digital Remote Soft Proofing: The Key to Effective Color Communication,” June 2008, p. 30, for a list of popular applications), surrounding neutral color, white point, and black point are all critical. It’s also important to make sure the ICC profile created by the cali-bration software is loaded on your machine and translates to the design applications in use.

The conditions for reflective viewing are different. The color temperature has been set to D50 because each of the energy levels of the R, G, and B colors at that color temperature is equal, resulting in an equal spectral distribution of color. This supposedly delivers a neutral white without any visible color cast. You must also know your luminance level. The ISO specification (ISO 3664-2000) sets it at 2000 lux ±500 lux. The neutral gray surround also is specified.

Light-source variation is a limitation of the D50 standard. For one thing, it’s almost impossible to get an exact 5000°K fluorescent source. The phosphors change over time, and the spectral output is missing some frequencies. Most professional viewing booths have hour meters that indicate when to change the bulbs. The best alternative is to use calibrated instrumentation to measure the color temperature and luminance on a regular basis.

The reason I’m going to this length to describe the viewing conditions is so you can communicate more effectively with your clients. When they’re making decisions, and their conditions do not match yours, there’s no way to achieve any reasonable match. The same color viewed under two different light levels and color temperatures may very well be completely different. A perfect match under one set of lighting may be completely rejected when viewed under another set. The effect of color changes under different lighting conditions is known as metamerism, and the suspect pigments are called metameric colors. Fluorescent color is an excellent example.


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