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Friday, August 6, 2010

What colors do we change?

Now that we have discussed in some detail the machinery involved in changing the color we need to discuss how to pick the colors to change.

The first step is to determine which colors are wrong and what the nature of the problems are.  Typically this involves a test print and a review the CSR and customer over document issues.

For many business documents we can order the problems as follows:

  1. Key logos and other marks don't meet brand requirements.
  2. Tint and shading issues.
  3. Consistency.
  4. Miscellaneous.

The issues with logos and branding are fairly clear.  Either it matches soda pop blue or red or it doesn't. Strategically there are a couple of ways to choose alternative colors but for this case its usually best to provide a set of choices for the end user to pick.  Depending on the color choice almost invariably the replacement model will be one of replacing either a single color a set of shades of that color.

Sometimes if other work is in-house for a given client then these choices would be automatic.

Tinting and shading generally fall into two categories.  Grays and branding-related  accent colors.  Grays tend to be simple "too light" or "too dark" issues and are usually solved with adjustments to a gray shader.  Invariably gray problems revolve to some degree around RGB colors and its generally a good idea to replace the color space in the output as well as the color, i.e., RGB gray to PDF G gray.

Tinting issues tend to revolve around the comparison of brand marks with supporting marks, e.g., I have a green bank logo and there are green boxes and lines on other parts of the document.  Once the logo color is set correctly the tint of these other items may not match.  (Often logo's are supplied as CMYK and other colors as RGB - usually because whatever process is creating these documents takes as input unchanged logos from graphic art sources whereas line drawing is programmed.)

Consistency typically involves documents where several underlying or competing creation processes have been established.  For example, a parent organization with multiple child organizations.  In these cases you may have a set of brand colors but the brand colors are not consistently applied or the color spaces are for the brand color spaces differ for documents within the entire run.  Again, you may see some with RGB versions of logos and some with CMYK.  Needless to say these do not match with printed.

Miscellaneous issues involve everything else.  The most common can involve embedded profiles that need to be removed, CMYK black issues, and ink usage issues.

The process for creating the color input to the Lexigraph process is currently manual - though this will change in the future.

Tools that allow documents to be inspected generally work better than authoring tools.  A very complex and difficult issue here is the nature of the "A" list family of image and illustration editing software packages.  The general problem is that these packages  cannot be relied on to accurately report on color.

The reason for this is complex but basically boils down to the fact that the "A" list company knows color better than you.   To that end everything its software packages do involve either 1) the injection of profiles or 2) the interactive application of profiles such that the numbers reported by the package for color are not the numbers ultimately placed into the file.

You can see this for yourself by opening an "A" list illustration package, creating some simple blocks of color with specific CMYK or RGB values, saving out a PDF, and then inspecting the actual PDF produced directly or with a non-A-list application.

I suppose all the work to make sure you never "see" the profiles is all to make your job easier - which is fine as long as your job works like the "A"-list folks expect.

Lexigraph's tools require that they you identify the actual color you are asking the imaging device to image.

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