Colour Management -Part One

Kiran Prayagi, print technologist and chairman, Graphic Art Technology & Education demystifies colour management in a series of articles. In this first article, he explains the importance of colour management.

23 Apr 2013 | By Kiran Prayagi


Colour management may lead one to believe that it is going to deal only with the ICC profiles or CIE systems of colour that everyone is talking about these days. Indeed it will, but not before covering a lot of background information that is necessary and extremely important to understand what all this is about. Lack of strong fundamental knowledge leads to frustration and disappointment. Colour management encompasses many processes in the supply chain which affects colour. Everything that affect colours should become part of the ‘colour management’.

Secondly, ‘colour management’ is assumed as important only for the pre-press or ink personnel and nothing to do with the press, postpress, and others within the organisation.

Colour exerts very strong influence on our lives. It affects the way we see, the way we feel, and the way we act as well as the impression we carry around about ourselves. It forms part of the structure of every society. Colourful photograph 1 also represented in black and white 2 demonstrate this.


Photograph 1: colour


Photograph 2: black and white


In any arrangement which uses colour, whether it is room setting, clothes, a painting, packaging, or design, the relationships between colours is as important as the actual choice of colours. See photograph 3.


Photograph 3: colour harmony


The tradition of painting our houses go back to the beginning of construction – into the painted caves of our prehistoric ancestors. Historically, our towns and cities have been built from local materials and, up to the beginning of the 19th century, were painted with pigments made from local deposits of earth. When we enter the front door of our home, we enter a private domain filled with the hues of our choice. Research into the effects of colour on the visual size of rooms has recently been conducted.

If the quality of light represents an external influence on our colour vision, then our own personality represents an internal and private influence on the choice of colour. See photograph 4. Among the many colour personality tests The Luscher Colour Test is the most famous. Colour therapy or chromotherapy is the science which uses different colours to change or maintain vibrations of the body to that frequency which signifies health, ease, and harmony.


Photograph 4: effect of lighting


The biological records of animal life is apparent that the female responds to vivid colours. See photograph 5. The modification of the natural appearance of the face using colour has a long history that has given a birth to the cosmetics industry.

The world of advertising bombards us with a barrage of multi-coloured images from the pages of magazines, our television screens and the hoardings. In the world of advertising, colour has more impact than any other sense. Indeed, some adverts rely solely upon colour instantly to communicate their meaning.

The departmental stores and supermarkets stock hundreds of thousands items. There can be thousands of items at any given time in a single store. Colour is enlisted to single out individual brands or products to make them identifyable or more appealing. Furthermore, over half of all supermarket sales are unpremeditated, colour functions as a weapon to encourage the impulse-buying majority. See photograph 6.


Photograph 6: supermarket


A closer look at the products and their packaging reveals basic colour language. High legibility hues such as red and yellow flash ‘new’ and ‘improved’ messages on packaging, while background colours on products concealed in packets, tins and bottles often use colours to communicate the actual, desired or idealised hues of unseen product. For instance, various permutations of blue, white and grey are often employed to depict the purity, freshness and unadulteration of various brands of sugar, flour, salt and milk. Adding a touch of red to the package will increase a sense of power, such as with bleach or toothpaste. Greens and yellow project the freshness of vegetables and fruit. Orange, either individually or in the company of other ‘power’ hues such as dark blue and yellow, signifies a healthy energy when associated with vitamins and breakfast cereals but, when combined with ultramarine, conveys the power to clean the weekly wash. The colour of product and, indeed, its packaging can also determine our judgement of its strength. For example, cleansing products like baby lotion, moisture cream, tissues, oil and soap claim to be kind and gentle on the face and hands tend to be identified in pink.

The statistics show that around 200,000 tonnes of additives are consumed each year in the UK alone to make foodstuffs attractive at the supermarket. 90 % of the 3,700 chemical compounds used are solely for cosmetic purposes. These figures reflect our demand for ‘correct’ appearance of fruits, vegetables and meat, and respond to our strong associations of bright colour with freshness and flavour.

Many industries such as clothing, beauty and cosmetics, and soft furnishings depend heavily upon our constantly changing colour tastes for their existence. Indeed, their success in the marketplace hinges upon the accurate forecasting of tomorrow’s trend - setting colours.

The product designs represent a common colour language for international marketing. The combinations on each package result from market research.

Many companies not only use a colour psychology to advertise package and mass market their products or services but have also directly linked their own company with a particular hue. For example, Wal-Mart blue, Spencer’s orange, Kodak red, Reliance green, Jet Airways blue, etc.



We cannot ignore colour. Technology has filled our modern world. In production of commercial printing as well as packaging we can specify all the parameters, such as size, quantity, type style and size, delivery date, etc. except precise ‘quality’ and ‘colour’. To reproduce the same colours as best as possible to reflect what has been said so far, the artists, photographers, television industry and, especially the printing industry has the herculean task of using their limited colours. This is compounded with very variable lighting and viewing conditions we encounter in everyday life. The language we use to describe colour is often imprecise.

I shall be dealing with the ‘science of colour and its reproduction’ as it applies in packaging printing. This involves physics, chemistry, physiology, psychology and psychophysical aspects, lighting, colorimetry, appearances and above all artistic and aesthetic considerations. This calls for a ‘systematic and scientific’ approach on the part of all concerned and it is hoped that this series of articles will be a step in this direction.