What color is your blue?

August 25, 2009

Have you ever heard a customer tell you that the color on their new MFD is “wrong”? I always think, but never say “based on what?” Color is relative, what most people mean when they say the color of their new printing device is wrong is that it is different than the way their old printer or MFD use to print. Or maybe it is different than the way they would like it to print. Even if it is demonstrably better, it’s different, and different makes it “wrong” to the customer. At least that will be their initial response.

Many years ago I was called in on a new installation of a high end color copier\printer. It was a Graphics House with a Father \ Daughter team of Graphic Artists (GA). They told me that they did not like the out of the box color that they were seeing and I told them not to worry we can adjust the color. After discussing what they wanted to see, I did a calibration and then made a few initial changes in the settings of the Fiery Rip. But when I printed out one of their files and showed it to both of them they gave me the following response at the exact same time.

Father: “That sucks!” -vs Daughter: “That’s perfect!”

Welcome to my world, as I said, color is subjective. I responded to the both of them, when the two of you figure out which one of you is “right”, let me know and I’ll fix it. Who do you think won that argument? Right, The daughter did. It was perfect, because she said it was. It was what she wanted, or what she expected. That made it “right”, at least in her eyes.

I have also had a customer show me a Pantone color, a JPEG Image, and a CMYK color, and say “this”is our company Blue. Which one? Because each of these is a different color (space). And they will often print differently. There are of course great color management tools, especially on the Fiery rips. But even Canon & Konica Minolta (as well as some other Manufacturers) are getting better at being able to give us better color control. The OEM controllers have come a long way, but for critical color I will still recommend as Fiery Rip.

But it is just as important to educated our customers about color. One of the things I am seeing is more WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) color than ever before. I show up and have an irater customer telling me the color is “WRONG” on their brand new MFD. Then I look at it and compare it to what I see on the screen and it is WYSIWYG. The customer may even acknowledge that it looks just like the image on the monitor but they still insist that it is “WRONG!!!!”. But what they mean is it’s different. They took great pains, and a lot of trial and error to get the image that they don’t like on the screen to look right on their old printer. So when the new MFD prints out just like it looks on the screen they’re upset because they don’t want to have to rework all of their old documents to make them look they way they use to on their old printer. You can liken it to a person who learned to ride a bicycle with crooked handle bars. When you give them a bike with straight handle bars they have a tough time riding it because even though they know its the way its suppose to be, it feels wrong to them.

Color is also an emotional issue to most people, so you can’t expect people to be completely rational about it. Even if they know that the color is better they may not want to acknowledge it because that would mean more work for them to correct their old files. So they will say it’s wrong, to make it your problem, and not their problem. And since they probably have not yet signed the D&A, guess what, it IS your problem. I hope you have a talented SE or Color Specialist (we have several).

The good news is we can often set up profiles or even custom color curves that the customer can call up ‘on the fly” to print their old files so they will look pretty much the way they use to, but allow them to take advantage of WYSIWYG color going forward. While it may take some time getting use to riding the bike with straight handle bars, it’s worth the effort. And if the customer is willing to work with their SE or Color specialist it will make the transition easier, and very much worth the trouble.

That’s my $0.02
Vince McHugh


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