Tips to Better Manage Color Management
One of the most common questions people ask about on-demand printing in the world of interiors is, “How do you manage color management?” The answer is in two parts. First, open communication between the printer and the designer. Next, a physical sample for a designer to approve.
First, communication is key.
Start talking color with a designer as early in the process as possible. Don’t just talk though, ask for physical examples. What one person thinks of as sky blue can be very different from what someone else thinks, so avoid verbal descriptions. Electronic examples are not accurate either. Most people don’t calibrate their monitors or their office printers. Working with a physical color example such as a Pantone chip, paint chip, or fabric swatch is the only way for each party to know exactly what is needed. Discuss each of the major colors in a design. If it is a two-color design and the designer gives you five colors they love to give you a sense of the vibe, narrow it down to which two exact colors they want in the design. Likewise, if it’s a five-color design and they only give you two references, discuss what each of the other colors should be.
As a printer, if you have a preferred color reference system, such as Pantone, let the designer know right away what you’re set up to work with and ask for color to be communicated in that manner.
Next, create a standard.
It can seem like wasted time and resources to print a small piece, send it through the mail, and wait to hear from a designer, but it saves time in the end and helps avoid costly mistakes. Once a color is decided on in the development stage, print a physical sample exactly as it will be made in production. Keep half and send the other half to be approved. If possible, be sure all parties are viewing the sample under similar light. If everyone doesn’t have a lightbox, try to view the sample in natural light.
A sample also allows a designer to see exactly what that color looks like on a particular substrate. The printer may have perfectly matched Pantone 17-3938, but it is still important for the designer to see it and make sure that the color, on that substrate, is still perfect for the project. With only a sample done, there is an opportunity for tweaking.
Once a designer approves the sample, keep it on file as a production standard. Going forward, the production standard can be used to be sure all future production is correct and eliminates the need to keep checking in with a designer for approval. They can just keep placing the orders.
Related story: Tips for Working With a Designer on Your Interior Projects
Kristen Dettoni is the founder and CEO of Design Pool LLC, the only pattern library created exclusively for interior designers. Since 1996, Kristen has worked for mills throughout North America, designing fabrics for automobiles, furniture, and home furnishings. She developed the first sustainable upholstery fabric for office interiors, the first sustainable upholstery fabric for automotive interiors, and was awarded a patent for automotive suspension seating. Kristen believes strongly in the power of good design to transform our environments and experiences.