The Value of Digital Color Professional Certification
If color is a feeling - and I believe if you ask, most designers would agree it is - then our task as SGIA Certified Digital Color Professionals is clear. Our job is to consistently, predictably, and repeatably convey that feeling to the end user of the print project. SGIA Certified Digital Color Professionals have demonstrated through testing and submission of a test print that they have what it takes to deliver the intended feeling over and over again.
The question is why commit the time, energy, and dollars to complete the certification process? Isn’t color the responsibility of the companies from whom we purchase printers, ink, media, and RIP software? Of course, each of these players has an obligation to provide equipment, supplies, and software that make achieving consistent, predictable, and repeatable color possible, but pulling it all together and making it work every day is our responsibility.
The methodology for making all of this work is color management. Color management began around 1984, so it is still a fairly new discipline in the printing and color industries. Since then, a great deal has been learned, and many software and hardware companies have released tools to make color management easier. However, it still requires a person with extensive color knowledge to properly operate a color managed workflow.
To this end, SGIA has been running Color Management Boot Camps for the better part of the last decade. These boot camps bring together instructors with varied backgrounds to teach the basics of color theory as well as color management techniques. It’s because of these varied backgrounds and the team approach that the curriculum created for the color management boot camps was used as the basis for the Certified Digital Color Professional program.
In-person, hands-on training like the color management boot camps can serve multiple purposes depending upon one’s current level of knowledge. For example, I once attended an advanced three-day color training program that helped me fill some gaps in my knowledge. While I had extensive color management knowledge, those gaps needed be bridged so my practice of color management could be taken to a higher level.
At the same time, I’ve seen near novices attend a Color Management Boot Camp and leave able to produce their own ICC profiles, which they didn’t know how to do before attending the workshop. This is why the boot camp is a mixture of lecture followed by practical hands-on exercises designed to reinforce the best practices of color theory and color management.
Once the boot camp is completed, each attendee has the opportunity to use their new knowledge to pass a test administered online by SGIA. Upon passing that exam, the attendee becomes a Qualified Digital Color Professional. They can then submit a test print to demonstrate the ability to use that knowledge in their own shop, with their own equipment and color management tools. When completed, the print is submitted to the Sunoco Institute at Clemson University for third party validation. While this is a rigorous process that not everyone completes successfully, most do and then achieve the status of Certified Digital Color Professional.
By the time most have achieved this certification, the digital badge - while nice - becomes a bit of an afterthought. What really matters is the attendee and newly minted SGIA Certified Digital Color Professional now begins to see the fruits of their labors in more consistent, predictable, and repeatable color produced on an ongoing basis in their shop. At the same time, spoilage is reduced as fewer jobs have to be redone and/or discounted to have them accepted by the client.
This is a certification program that benefits both the individual who attends the boot camp and then seeks certification as well as their employer. It’s not always easy to find a program that checks both those boxes; but this is one that does.
Jim Raffel is a color management consultant who also serves as CEO of ColorCasters, LLC and ColorMetrix Technologies LLC. As a veteran of the printing industry and a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology’s acclaimed printing management program, in 1995 he formed ColorMetrix to bring an idea he had to make color measurement and evaluation easier by creating easy-to-use software solutions. Today as a certified G7 expert and color management professional, his consulting practice focuses on dye sublimation and flat-bed UV inkjet printing. This work keeps him on the road many weeks each year working with end users and manufacturers to improve their color management processes. He has also been authorized by SGIA to conduct their color management boot camps; in both open venues for anyone to attend and in closed venues for clients and their staff.