Colour needs a champion in India

Sachin Shardul reports on the Indo-German conference on colour measurement and management - and workshopping which elicited overwhelming response from more than hundred delegates

28 Apr 2010 | By Sachin Shardul

It's a measure of just how hot a topic colour is at the moment that delegates had to be turned away because there was no space for them at the Indo-German colour management conference.

The conference-cum- workshop was hosted by Graphic Arts Technology and Education (GATE) and the Print and Media Technology and the Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany under the auspice of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany along with co-operation from PrintWeek India.

More than  100 participants and a few international authorities in the subject shared their expertise.

The conference provided clarity on the myths and mysteries of  colour and discussed why colour management does not satisfy us to the extent it should; and what are the main reasons for unsatisfactory colour reproduction. Colour management covers a wide gamut of technologies.

  • It is not limited to what is perceived by the industry practitioners. Some of the myths are :
  • That ISO 12647 is colour management
  • Notion that software alone will do the trick
  • Casual approach to the process after pre-press
  • Lack of efforts to improve processes
  • Inappropriate environment and viewing conditions
  • Uncalibrated equipments and materials
  • Lack of proper instrument measurement systems
  • Improper knowledge and incorrect procedures
  • Lack of appreciation by the creative persons about production limitations
  • Progress of current technologies

The conference discussed colour management and speakers from India, Germany, Switzerland and Canada presented their ideas about the far-reaching implications of colour reproduction. Key sessions were moderated by Professor Rajendrakumar Anayath, Professor Abhay Sharma, Professor Arved Hübler, and Kiran Prayagi.

Basics of colour

The view of a creative artist is critical in the graphic reproduction process. Therefore, an expert in visual communication, Mumbai-based Professor Ranjan Joshi provided an overview on colour appearances from an artist's view point providing examples from the work of Van Gogh.

He was  followed by Vishal Bhende, a photographer, who explained the critical situations in colour capturing using camera devices. Both the speakers can be described as the first step in the colour reproduction process where the journey of colour management starts.

Measurement of colour is a science.

It is defined by CIE and forms the basis for managing colour. The fundamentals of the CIE system were demystified by consultant Kiran Prayagi of GATE, Mumbai. He highlighted human colour vision and its relationship to the CIE system as well as colour reproduction in photography, printing, and television.

The device independent colour gamut and the concept of colour management play a key role to understand the behaviour of different devices, their characteristics and profiling. Understanding colour management does not mean understanding the device outputs but the process. Professor Abhay Sharma from Ryerson University, Canada, an expert in the field focussed on these factors and essentials for colour reproduction.

Christian Benz from X-Rite, Switzerland presented how sophisticated colour measurement technology support industry standards, such as ISO 12647-2 and G7. His second session was about ink formulation software and the management of ink which is left over in the ink kitchen.

He also focused on how to use ink effectively from the leftovers and formulating shades on different substrates, storage of recipes, installation, and integration of ink formulation software. The importance and measurement of colour on a printing press was provided by Leopold von der Gabelentz from Manroland AG, Germany.

He underscored the importance of how to manage colour on a printing machine, with the aid of colour workflow and the possibilities with multiple configurations.

The importance of colour

Manish Kaushal from Heidelberg India presented the idea of fingerprinting the press - and identifying key factors for good colour reproduction and control on the press. Paritosh Prayagi from pmTUC, Chemnitz, Germany along with Professor Arved Hübler introduced the concept of spectral and multi-spectral technologies in colour reproduction.

The effect of metamerism could be reduced. This, in turn, could increase the colour gamut and possibility to use basic printing primaries other than CMYK with the help of spectral footprint of the original. The audience was keen to learn more about this technology. Professor Hübler presented a technology roadmap for colour reproduction technologies.

Markus Schnitzlein, CEO, Chromasens GmbH, Germany presented the importance of upcoming technologies of multi-channel spectral camera systems and the importance of dependence of signal noise (shot noise) in measurement systems. He focussed on the measurement errors and possibilities to achieve a delta E difference of less than 1.5 using multi-spectral approaches with six channels.

An interactive presentation by Vidhu Gautam of Kodak outlined three factors in colour management - communicate, control, and confirm. This mantra was: the management of these three tools would lead to effective colour management.

Colour matching in packaging printing remains a critical topic of discussion in special colour printing. Martin Flaspöhler shared his expertise to highlight the issues related to colour matching, especially the bronzing effect.

Apart from the physical reasons, the structures of the compounds are equally responsible for its appearance. Subash Srivastava and Dr Siva Rama Pariti, both leading colour chemistry experts, presented an overview on the compounds responsible for colour appearance in the printing industry. Srivastava highlighted the metaphysical aspects of colour and Dr Siva demonstrated interesting colour effects. Gautam Vagal, the honorary secretary, Society of Dyers and Colourists presented an empirical approach on colour appearances of Pantone colour shades.

This was based on his experiments during his master's thesis in the UK which was conducted with viewers of different age groups. This highlighted the role played by the background colour in recognising the main colour.

A good inking system is needed for efficient ink transfer and colour reproduction on the printing press. Dr Gert Schlegel from pmTUC, Chemnitz, Germany presented his innovative spray inking system for offset printing presses. He explained about the device prototype that he designed and developed. He focussed on the output quality of the spray inking system in comparison to the conventional inking systems. Dr Schlegel gave a short overview on the pmTUC and its activities in India.

At the end of the second day, an interactive session was held in order to explore doubts about colour.

The third day of the conference was dedicated to workshops where Chromasens GmbH, X-Rite, Heidelberg and Manroland presented their systems and products. Sci-Tech Books, displayed technical books on the topics of colour. Chromasens GmbH demonstrated a prototype of an inline capturing system using camera devices along with strong innovative illuminations to provide uniform white light. X-Rite demonstrated their range of measurement equipments and related softwares for various applications, such as ink-matching etc.

Grafica Flexotronica displayed printed products using screen printing process with unique combinations, process standardisation and special inks. Heidelberg displayed and demonstrated their workflow system, whilst Manroland explained the press control systems.

The future of colour

Colour experts, answered questions live from the audience on everything, from how often to calibrate a monitor, to addressing why advertising agencies seem to lack awareness of colour management. All agreed that colour management can bring in new kinds of business that offers attractive recurring revenues.

Kiran Prayagi felt that to make colour management work, a print business needs a ‘colour champion' with board-level approval to lead the initiative, and sales staff and customers need to be educated about the benefits.

During the three-day colour conference, we spoke to delegates and enquired about how engaged they were with colour management. We were surprised that a majority of respondents said they relied on their customers to provide colour correct files.

Half of that number stated, they manage colour internally and a negligible number said that colour management extended to their print partners as well. The point is, very few companies, considered colour management to be a unique selling point of their business.

The message from the colour conference was loud and clear, print companies in India will have to change their colour strategy.

But the point is, yes we can? Or will it be more of the same?

The conference was a success story covering aspects of colour management and reproduction from designing to final reproduction using CIE system as well as multi-spectral approach, ink formulation and ink matching, spectral technologies and estimation, shot noise, colour management on the press, inking systems and interesting areas.