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Seeing Eye to Eye: An overview of spectrophotometers

(April 2008) posted on Tue Apr 08, 2008

Spectrophotometers are valuable measurement tools that can help prevent costly color-matching mistakes and improve the quality of your printed images. Here


By Ben P. Rosenfield

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ICC workflow International Color Consortium (ICC) color profiling helps eliminate color discrepancies caused by variables at each stage of the production workflow, from computer monitors, scanners, and imagesetters in prepress to screen and stencil properties in the screenroom and press settings on the production floor. The ICC workflow is also becoming more valuable to screen printers as they begin to include digital prepress and full-color, digital output systems.

With digital printers playing an ever larger role in the production of wide-format color graphics, the ability to ensure color accuracy between screen and digital graphics becomes crucial. Luckily, spectrophotometers don’t suffer from pigment prejudice, and the measurements they deliver from any type of printed graphic can be used to balance the production systems that produced them so that each technology provides identical end results.

“There are automated spectrophotometers that make quick work of getting color,” Pike explains. “And many front-end RIPs include a calibration utility that will usually work with spectrophotometers. The idea is that calibration provides consistent output from day to day.”

If you plan to work regularly with ICC profiles, your best bet is to invest in a benchtop spectrophotometer. When you consider that creating an ICC profile for an inkjet printer or screen press means taking thousands of color readings, the man hours involved justify having a benchtop unit, particularly one that scans color samples automatically. You might even consider purchasing a unit developed specifically for developing ICC profiles to further streamline the process.

 

What you need

While you’re usually safe buying the best technology you can afford, you should try to avoid buying more spectrophotometer than you absolutely need. Goldberg says that the priority should be to find an instrument that is production oriented, user friendly, accessible, and rugged. “The tools will sit idle unless you get cooperation from the personnel on the shop floor,” he explains. “[Employees] are not going to cooperate if they see [the device] as something that’s going to be a source of trouble for them. The greatest spectro in the world isn’t very helpful if you can’t really access it in terms of feature and function.”


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