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Sat, Nov

Using outsiders with inside knowledge

Sometimes it pays to bring in the experts. Swiftprint is a case in point, having employed those with colour management know-how to streamline its operations.

When Swiftprint in Huddersfield moved into wide-format it quickly realised that colour management was going to be an issue and that it needed help. 

The company, which started trading as a litho and copy house back in the early 1970s, today manages a production space with Heidelberg GTO52 B3 offset press, four small-format Xerox and Konica Minolta machines and numerous ancillary devices, and handles wide-format print output via a Canon imagePrograf iPF81000 and a Roland VP540 VersaCamm four-colour eco-solvent inkjet. It’s a set-up that managing director Phil Earle believes allows it to give customers that all important ‘can-do’ response. But what it couldn’t do, without a significant number of man hours being thrown at the issue, was colour manage the diversity of files coming in, some through its Web portal.

As Earle explains: “Things changed after a chance meeting at a seminar with a couple of colour experts. We had moved into wide-format printing to diversify and expand our offering and realised we needed to address the colour management side of things. We wanted to give our customers top quality colour products across the portfolio and it was while we were on that learning curve that we met guys from Colour Engine at an entrepreneurial social occasion and got chatting. It was obvious from the start that their colour expertise was exceptional because they instinctively knew the answers to our questions. We invited them to review our colour needs and it went from there.

“Six months down the line we are seeing a huge difference in productivity, time efficiency and quality on colour matching. I’d say the investment we’ve made in their consultancy and training has already paid for itself. In a short space of time we have gone from strength to strength and can now see huge time savings in the studio – at least a day a week. Previously the studio staff had spent a good percentage of their time fixing individual files ready to print. Now they are able to use the freed-up time to develop valuable design projects. And by managing the colour on the printed product we are setting ourselves apart from the competition. It’s a real selling tool to be able to offer quality colour consistency across all products.”

Colour consistency across multiple products is a big ask, yet one being asked of print providers ever more frequently, and at Swiftprint Colour Engine spent time assessing the company’s objectives and created tailored colour profiles using a standard Adobe Acrobat software programme.

Malcolm Mackenzie at Colour Engine explains the process: “We start by assessing how the incoming PDF files have been created. Like most companies that receive a diversity of files from a variety of sources, there are always a few noticeable errors such as missing fonts, low res. images and a mix of CMYK and RGB colour profiles. We also had to look at synchronising the Rips on each press for colour definition. With multiple devices you tend to find a variety of Rips so we implemented a set of rules whereby each press is set to a colour standard. Now when Swiftprint receives the PDF files they are automatically run through its pre-set pre- flighting program.

Mackenzie continues: “We have created a set of rules specific to Swiftprint’s needs and these automatically make all the corrections necessary to render the colour in the PDF file and give it ‘common visual appearance’ necessary for brand integrity. The profiles have all been tailored to suit the company’s production processes."

“Hands up - we know we are not colour experts, so it’s worth paying out for someone who is,” admits Earle, who is delighted with the outcome of employing outside specialists. “These colour profiles work every time no matter what is required. We are seeing excellent results with many issues on CMYK/RGB or low res. files and PDFs being fixed in over 90% of cases. We can now offer brand integrity where it is needed no matter what the product.”

At Swiftprint, Colour Engine has also advised on lighting and proofing. Mackenzie says: “One of the keys to managing colour is to have a ‘benchmark’ proofing system in place, but a lot of print companies still don’t realise the importance of having a ‘true certified proof’.

“For all the progress made in prepress etc. the final judgement is based on looking at a print. Almost all of the time that judgement will be made with lighting that is non-standard. Lighting is a big issue as it really does affect the appearance of colour and the decision making of what is ‘good to go’ and what is not. We can help identify the issues, advise on the remedy and the best outcome. Using old lighting booths, un-calibrated monitors and measurement devices which need updating can cost companies a lot of wastage, whereas the latest technology and tools we can help measure the technical specifications of light in keeping with ISO standards. This helps companies maintain compliance for true and accurate colour assessment.”

Earle is impressed: “After many years in print, I have not come across the depth of knowledge that the Colour Engine guys bring to our business; their involvement is making a huge difference to cost and time efficiencies here at Swiftprint. From day one they have saved us hours and hours of time in our studio. They have the knowledge to iron out any colour management issues and make sure we get the best from what we’ve got – and that’s a real comfort factor. Using external experts has really made an impact on our business and its ability to compete.”

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