6 Reasons for Certifying Your Color Management Professionals
Any moderately talented employee can learn to run a digital press or prepare digital files for output, but “high quality digital production is hard… and it’s harder if you are not trained.” Okay, now that I have your attention, I will give you six reasons why all graphic production companies need to improve the skills of their employees by having them earn certification as a Professional or Expert in color management.
- Time savings.
When digital printing first appeared in the large-format graphics market, and even before inkjet printers became a viable option for true graphic production work, output was very slow. Not because of the people, but mostly because the digital printing presses were so slow, there was a lot of time between print projects. Therefore, spending a little extra time messing with color at the beginning of each print project didn’t matter so much. If it took 15 to 30 minutes to print one 48x96 inch print, an hour to experiment with color moves and making a few test swatches to tweak in the color was a very small part of the total time of a (50) print run. A printer was only going to do about two of these runs a week on that slow device anyway.
Those days are gone. Today, with high-speed digital printers and net margins in the low single digits, press setup will not support messing around and tweaking color. The difference of having a knowledgeable certified digital color management professional or expert can be the difference in survival or not. “Speed” may kill on the highway, but “slow” in a digital workflow will kill your company.
When a workflow is setup properly, it saves time because there are no surprises. The certified color management professional has been trained to eliminate surprises. I like surprises as much as anyone but only on my birthday and Christmas, not on press! Sending a print to the press and then wondering why the heck it looks the way it looks is not good. The certified color management professional will already know what it is going to look like before they print it because it is not an experiment. It is a calculated, planned, and preset process.
- The Certified Professional’s equipment is calibrated and certified.
The certified professional doesn’t do a new profile for each job as it comes in. The process is truly managed by applying the preset process. They will normally have all their standard substrates profiled, then they are ready to select the correct profile for the appropriate substrate with no testing or guesswork. If a new substrate has be specified, they can quickly assess if there is a need for a new profile.
The certified digital color management professional is also trained in maintaining accurate output. They are trained to check print heads and other mechanical function prior to starting each day. They don’t like surprises, and they will not begin to print without knowing everything is working properly saving time and material.
- The Certified Professional will have a process that they follow.
The process of a certified digital color management professional’s workflow is written, and they are all trained in using the process. They will follow it every day, every time. They understand preflighting a file, but the preflighting is done at a higher level. The certified digital color management professional understands international print standards, can identify the creator of the file’s output intent of raster images, and knows how spot colors and named colors are going to image.
- The Certified Professional will have a known target.
The “target” in digital has several names that mean the same thing. A “target” could be an “aim point,” or a “reference,” or a “configuration,” or even a submitted proof. Raster images (photographs) will have a known reference. For example, GRACol2013, Gracol2006coated2_v1, SWOP3, FOGRA39, XCMYK, etc. They know what that means, and they know how to honor the embedded profiles and not just strip them out and apply something different than the file creator intended.
Spot colors, which are also sometimes critical brand colors, are managed scientifically using the entire gamut available, and printed to the lowest delta E possible without resorting to visual sorcery. Then they save it to a spot color library, and there is not a need to do it again for the next job. (File management knowledge is critical for spot colors.)
- A Certified Digital Color Management Professional will verify.
The first thing that is verified daily is the calibration of the in-house proof. The second thing that is verified daily is the calibration of the print devices being used.
The third thing that is verified is job-by-job results. They do not need to verify every print. They are trained to verify at the beginning, intermittently during the run, and at the end of the run. This gives the print company a huge advantage.
- A Certified Digital Color Management Professional has confidence in their product.
Confidence in your product is critical in how clients view your company. There was a recent TV commercial where a surgery patient was asking a nurse about the surgeon. The nurse said, “Oh, he’s okay.” The patient did not say a word -- the look on the patient's face said it all. You do not want to be “okay" or "pretty good,” you want to be known as one of the best.
Knowledge and skill is the mother of confidence. If your prepress people know they setup a job properly to hit the aim point, and the printer knows they verified the right profile for the substrate is being used, and they measured and verified the target, production has confidence. When the production people can prove to the sales staff and management that they are within a specified tolerance every day, every time, that confidence factor goes straight to their conversations, and then on to the customer.
My hope in presenting these six reasons help digital print producers realize the value of the high quality and thorough hands-on certification training. I also hope I have brought some awareness to the financial benefits to a company that has employees trained in proper calibration, maintenance, using correct processes, and verification of print results. There is no substitute for proper training. Place training high on your priority list.