Achieving identical results with different digital print jobs has long been a great headache for those in the printing and photography industries. If one were to print a pattern, for example, using the same ink sets in a variety of different printers, the color results would almost certainly vary. To add to the frustration, variances can be visible on prints made on different days using the exact same printer and inks.
Color-matching and reproducibility are vitally important to the digital photographer or printer. Luckily, the advent of raster image processors (RIPs) and color management systems has allowed for great strides in this area. Color management and RIP software and hardware let users manage their color printing by creating profiles specific to their particular printers, inks and printed media, as well as any post-processing work that might have an impact on the color. Users can then select a profile that will ensure the colors in the digitally printed output match those in the original design.
GingerBread Photo: Color
Accuracy All the Way
Marion Babich of GingerBread Photo, Ogden, UT, tells Imaging Business that he uses a software line from Philadelphia-based Scanvec Amiable called PhotoPRINT Family 4. The software has been invaluable to him. "My number-one priority when I first looked for a RIP was to get great consistent color and ease of laying out multiple images and print," he says. "I was using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, so design tools were not a high priority. I tried many RIPs, both software and hardware, but when I found PhotoPRINT, I knew I had a winner."
PhotoPRINT Family 4 consists of PhotoPRINT SERVER-PRO, a client-server RIP solution including an extra EDITOR station for layout and design, plus ICC-profile editing and creation using the Color Calibration Wizard; PhotoPRINT SERVER for networks and large production environments, featuring Job Priority and Page and Job nesting productivity tools for sending workflow to multiple printers from multiple design applications; PhotoPRINT DX with design capabilities for text, shapes and effects, which can RIP and print to two devices simultaneously; and PhotoPRINT SE, an entry-level RIP solution for single workstation environments.
Babich has many artist customers, whom he calls "some of the toughest to deal with," since they need their artwork reproduced as close to the original as possible. "With the color profiles PhotoPRINT has, and my monitor's calibration, I can print knowing they will get what they expect," he says. "Of course, if they want a certain color to ‘pop' or to change some hues in an image, that can also be easily done on the RIP end, or in Photoshop."
When printing for artists, Babich prefers to make use of the entire printable canvas, and RIP software helps make that possible. "For example, I can lay out an 8 x 10 and two 11 x 14s with a two-inch spacing around each one for stretching purposes," he says. "It's very easy in PhotoPRINT: Just place the files on the design board and tell the program the spacing and print. By doing this, I can get the client's work out much faster, which makes good business sense." His customers, he adds, expect a great product at a reasonable price: "With PhotoPRINT, I can give them both."
Graphic Systems: Consistency Across the Board
Nik Prenevost of Minneapolis, MN—based Graphic Systems, Inc., also uses RIP technology to ensure customer satisfaction. Specifically, his company uses the Cheetah 2000 RIP/Server from Dice America (Rochester, NY). "Our customers want consistent color, no matter what type of output device is being used," Prenevost explains. "The Dice RIP gives us that consistency."
Dice America's Cheetah 2000 RIP/Server is a PostScript Level 3 language interpreter and central network server designed to produce high-res RGB and CMYK images from PostScript Level 3 files. It is built for use with any output device requiring TIFF 6.0, TIFF 4.0, TIFF LZW, PPM, Scitex CT or screened TIFF formats for use with grand-format printers. Compatible output devices include the Durst Lambda, Theta and Epsilon digital printers; film recorders such as the LVT RHINO+; and wide-format electrostatic, inkjet and grand-format printers.
"Dice's products appeal to Graphic Systems because of their seamless integration into our existing system, which is an all Durst/Dice system," says Prenevost. "Dice's products have helped because of the consistency and the predictability they have given us. We have been able to increase the performance and productivity of our workflow with Dice's Cheetah RIP in correlation with our color management system." Looking toward the future, Prenevost says he hopes the next big step in RIP evolution offers "faster RIP speeds and the ability to handle larger file sizes." Both of these, he says, would be beneficial to his clients. For now, though, he's quite content.
Imageologists: Searching for Versatility
When it comes to RIP systems, Andrew Goggin of Imageologists (Inglewood, CA) relies on Contex Scanning Technology, Inc. Contex, a manufacturer of wide-format color and monochrome scanners located in Ontario, CA, offers a scan-to-file software package called WIDEimageNET, and a scan-to-print package called JETimageProNET, both for use with its scanners. Contex creates solutions for reprographics, CAD, AEC, GIS, graphic arts, photographic, document archival, copy shops, POP/exhibit providers, prepress, sign/billboard production, architecture and engineering offices.
"One of the beauties of the Contex scanners is that they have the quality to go into virtually any application for scanning, whether it's documents of blueprints, drawings, photographs or artwork," Goggin says. As a photographic distributor, Goggin deals with professional photographer labs, government and large corporations. As such, he found Contex's scanners and RIP software to be a good fit with his line of work. "They take processes that could take up to two or three hours to have one document ready for duplication, and reduced the time to less than a minute," he says. "This has allowed us to expand into new markets and to grow our existing markets."
Color management is a huge problem in digital workflow. Contex's closed-loop color management, says Goggin, eliminates several difficulties: "One, by the size of the cameras that they have that record anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 pixels, the quality of what they record is so good that there's no retouching or after-the-scan work that needs to be done the vast majority of times," he says. "If someone is looking for a quick file that they want to scan to print, the amount of time it takes is minutes, versus what could have been a two- or three-hour process. And the quality is much better."
Cost is another factor Goggin considers vital. "Affordability is becoming a bigger and bigger issue," he says. "To do a copy-to-print solution or a scan-to-file solution, you used to be looking at $20,000 to $50,000. Now, with a Contex color scanner and a plotter or printer, you can have a solution of excellent quality for $15,000."
This has changed the whole perspective of bringing a job in-house, he adds, as opposed to sending it out to a sub-contractor or reprographics house: "It really expedites the process for people, and the savings for them is substantial."