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Unveiling the Colors: A Journey into Precision Printing and Color Profiling

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Imagine walking into a bustling showroom filled with state-of-the-art printing technology, vibrant colors leaping off the substrates, and experts eager to unveil the secrets of precision printing. That was my recent trip to Atlanta, GA, where I stepped into the Vanguard Digital Systems showroom. It was there that I had the privilege of delving into the world of printing, color, and presentation under the guidance of Joel Thomas, their wide-format expert.

One of the highlights of my visit was spending an entire day immersed in the art of color profiling a Vanguard printer alongside the expertise of Onyx. Suddenly, the mystical spectrophotometer, a term I’d brushed against in my earlier industry days, came alive. I grasped its significance – how this device not only measures color but also plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the colors we envision are precisely replicated on print.

My journey in this industry started young, at 16, but the depth of understanding the importance of a spectrophotometer truly hit me during my visit to the showroom. Witnessing machines transition, displaying color-critical swatches, and fine-tuning profiles for diverse substrates ignited my determination to delve deeper into color profiling. It was time for me to step up and embark on the path to becoming a proficient color professional.

And now, as I gather my thoughts, I invite you to join me on this exciting venture of understanding color and the intricate workings of a spectrophotometer.


Let’s start with the basics: what exactly is a spectrophotometer? In simple terms, it’s a device used to measure color. Picture this: when printing on a flatbed printer, accuracy in color reproduction is paramount. A spectrophotometer comes into play to ensure that the colors being printed fall within the acceptable gamut range. During the initial setup, this tool identifies the precise colors being produced. By printing out various swatch patterns, the spectrophotometer captures the ‘actual’ colors and compares them against the ‘expected’ values. The software, like Onyx or your preferred RIP software, then characterizes these values based on resolution, material, and pass count, creating a tailored color profile for those specific conditions.

Creating this profile also leads to the generation of an ICC profile, essentially defining the color gamut for that printer. Understanding which Pantone colors fall within, near, or outside this gamut helps interpret incoming files and achieve the best possible color matching using previously measured color output data from the device.


Why go through this process of creating color profiles? Well, consider this: printing on foam core versus gatorfoam involves different materials, coatings, and whiteness levels. By assessing the colors that can be reproduced, we establish a consistent color gamut across all materials.

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty. What if you’re printing on multiple print engines? Ensuring uniform color reproduction across various printers becomes crucial. Your solvent roll-fed printer should render the same blue as your UV roll-fed printer, especially when catering to multiple applications for a single customer. Consistency reigns supreme in such scenarios.


Color matching is the heartbeat of printing. Harnessing tools and resources to optimize our machines’ performance defines the beauty of our industry. As I continue my journey to master color matching and comprehend printing capabilities, I encourage you to explore, ask questions, and embrace curiosity to unravel the mysteries of color and the prowess of print engines.

Thanks for joining me on this colorful journey. Stay tuned for more insights!

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