The Role of a Color Management Consultant

December 9, 2012

DIY Color Management, in many cases, is a great, cost-effective solution.  You can easily make the case that, in this age of Color v2.0, using basic Color Management is easy and effective, and you’d be on-target.  So, why hire a consultant?

Solving Troublesome Issues

Obviously, you may consider hiring a Color Management consultant if you’re having trouble with some specific issues…  printers not behaving, monitors that seem to be out of whack, or you’re trying to do something like getting better press-proofing from a system that maybe isn’t the best at press-proofing.  Certainly, you can invest a lot of time and effort into learning how to do it yourself, but, at the end of the day, is that what you’d like to be spending your time doing?

Getting Good Information

Part of the challenge in using the “Google School of Color Management” is that you’re never quite sure of the information you’re reading.  Much of what’s online is fairly dated information…  practices and work-arounds from the days when Color Management was an imperfect science.  Other online sources are simply mistaken.  Much of what you read on the web is simply information that’s been parroted from previous sources, without any attempt to verify or validate the source.

Sorting the good advice from the bad is a formidable hurdle.

When things don’t work the way they should, it’s hard to know if the “solution” is simply wrong, or you’ve employed it incorrectly.  Trusting the advice of a trained Color Management consultant can save a lot of trial-and-error, yet be just as informative and educational as attempting a DIY fix.

Getting a Grip on Goals

The very first thing a good consultant will do is to start asking questions, and usually the first is “What are you trying to accomplish?”  Simply having a chat with a knowledgable consultant will help you get a fresh perspective on your production goals, putting an end to what often becomes a cyclical trail of confused concepts and goals.  Most often we see this when dealing with proofing and emulation profiles.  Are you trying to give your offset printer a print they can use for a target?  Are you trying to show your client a proof of what they can expect the offset press to do when reproducing their files?

Getting a Second (and Authoritative)  Opinion

One thing’s certain.  Where Color Management is concerned, everybody seems to have an opinion about how it “should” be done.  This can lead to a couple of scenarios…  either it’s just done wrong, or, because you have several cooks stirring the broth, you have a workflow that has no coherent method.  Either everybody is doing things their own way, or a process is a mix of mis-steps.  Within a workplace or team, it may be hard to get one voice, no matter how authoritative, to be heard.  Enter the consultant.

When a trained Color Management consultant is pulled in, and achieves results, generally a team will welcome the solution.  Training, documentation and explanations are a big part of what we do, and the efforts are welcomed.

Seeing Possibilities

More often than not, when we’re evaluating a client’s production there are several times the question “…did you know you can…?” comes up.  A fresh set of eyes, as well as a complete understanding of what the tools can do almost always leads to pushing the system a little further and getting a little more out of it.   These seemingly little suggestions can open up a whole new realm of capabilities for a team.  For instance, not too long ago, while working for a busy commercial digital print shop we noticed a pair of very good quality thermal CD/DVD printers humming away.  “Did you know we can profile those?  How is the color coming from them now?  Are your clients satisfied?  Do you have to work hard at getting good color on a CD or DVD?  Would you like to be able to match the color on the disk’s offset printed cover better?”

Simple questions…  but they led to some basic profiling, and a huge time and work savings for the CD/DVD printing operators, as well as a much higher level of print quality.  Translate that to more a profitable production and more pleased and impressed clients.

The Increasing Volume of Technology

Though more sophisticated technology generally makes a task easier, as technology becomes better it mushrooms into more areas of our daily lives.  Land-based phones gave way to cell phones, which now have blossomed into smartphones.  What you once simply picked up and dialed now is so sophisticated and powerful that some may need to take a class on how to operate their latest, greatest handheld device.  There’s not an area of our lives that remains untouched.

Yes, Color Management works, and is fairly easy to implement if you know what you’re doing…  but for many, it’s just one more piece of a technology puzzle they’d prefer not to wrangle with – especially if they can get fast, effective help.

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