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How do you manage a specific color, to print consistently across different printers / ICC profiles?

I have a long time client and their brand color is a specific shade of coral rgb(250, 128, 112). I have a high end Epson inkjet printer in my studio, and it comes with a handful of ICC profiles for Epson's photo papers. I print short run and one-off marketing collateral for this client on my Epson printer. I would send larger volume needs to external printers, like moo.com or small local shops. Moo.com prints in GRACoL 2006 for most of their stuff.

My process usually looks like this:

  • Determine the intended printer, determine the intended color profile.
  • Set the document color profile in my Adobe application accordingly. (e.g. Adobe RGB, GRACoL 2006, SWOP, etc.)
  • Turn on Proof Colors and find the proof setting that matches the intended paper, or at least a close match.
  • Tweek the color values based on what I see in my digital proof setup

My dilemma is this: In order to achieve "optically" consistent across different printers, I'm recalibrating the colors a little bit every time based on how the colors show up in the on-screen proof. But I thought this was what proper color management is supposed to take care of automatically? Is there a better process for managing this? How do big international brands do it? Are they always using pre-mixed spot colors?

Thank you in advance!

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Color-profiling your printer will not assure color consistency that you seek. To make sure you have at least a close approximation of it, you should ask the print house their color profile (every printing machine has different). But that seems to be to much work every time you change a printers and it still does not guarantee color accuracy.

So, to keep it simple, you may do the following:

  • define colors in CMYK (because they have to convert from RGB to CMYK in order to print)
  • if possible, define the Pantone colors, that`s the safest way (bare in mind that Pantone colors are not always reproduced properly on your printer, depending on the color gamut - to make sure, check the Pantone color chart)
  • ask the print house to make a color proof which you should approve before the production
  • attend the approval process at the print house
  • if you can`t attend it, make sure to send a color example (of previous production) to the print house, and ask them to match it with delta E less than 3 (that is for most colors acceptable difference)
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You need to get some colour-profiling equipment and create your own ICC profiles for your printers and monitors. You cannot rely on the manufacturers' generic profiles. Look at the X-Rite i1 and the ColorMunki. A good reference book is Real World Color Management, by Fraser, Murphy & Bunting.

Commercial printers will probably want to use Pantone values for spot colours, rather than RGB values (which don't really mean anything on their own).

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