Marketers rely on wide format graphics to make a big impression. Size is one component, but quality is equally important. Big brands often depend on color association, and matching spot colors as quickly and effectively as possible is critical to the profitability of a job.
Print Direction, Inc. (PDI) understands the importance of high-quality color, as well as the affect it has on productivity if not streamlined. Based in Norcross, GA, the print provider offers digital wide format printing, lithography, screenprinting, fulfillment, kit packing, and distribution.
Jamie Horton, digital division manager, PDI, notes that color is important to almost every job. Point of purchase is the shop’s bread and butter. A lot of jobs are completed for national campaigns that require pieces from different departments. Achieving color consistency using a variety of output devices is challenging. PDI is G7 certified for both digital wide format and lithography.
Approximately eight years ago, PDI moved into the digital wide format space when it purchased its first wide format press—an EFI VUTEk, which really set the stage to move forward. Soon after, PDI purchased another EFI VUTEk—the QS3200—126-inch wide press. The company relies on a range of wide format printing equipment including an EFI VUTEk PV200/600, EFI VUTEk QS3200, Epson Stylus Pro GS6000, Hewlett-Packard Designjet, two Roland DGA Corporation printers, and most recently, an Inca Onset S20 from Fujifilm North America Corporation.
The expansive selection of devices provides PDI with a full range of capabilities. However, having a fleet of machines with separate RIPs and ink sets was a cause of concern for Horton. “Even though we were moving forward, we had a huge issue with color management. It was unbelievably hard to control color just within my area, a task that became much harder when a job covered all three platforms—screen, lithography, and digital,” recalls Horton.
To get the workflow—including color management—under control, PDI investigated color management software about a year and a half ago. At the time, the company was in the process of acquiring the Inca device and also elected to purchase ColorGATE Digital Output Solutions GmbH’s Productionserver 7, which includes several key modules such as the G7 color module.
“Finally, it all came together,” notes Horton. With Productionserver 7, Horton controls every device on one RIP system—something that was unquestionably necessary. The G7 module allows the shop to profile and footprint every device to be almost an identical match on anything printed in the shop. “I still have seven different machines, but with one RIP that uses the G7 methodology on those machines so color is under control,” he shares.
The ability to control all of the company’s digital wide format devices on one RIP provided a huge advantage to PDI. Horton explains that prior to the ColorGATE solution, setting up a job that utilized four devices would take a skilled operator at best one and a half hours, and at worst, three to four. With ColorGATE, this setup time was reduced to five minutes—15 for more complex jobs.
Recently, a major home improvement chain found PDI while searching for a new print provider due to logistical and color control challenges with its current firm. The chain stressed the importance of color and wanted a chance to witness the firm’s color management capabilities first hand before sending them an official job.
One of the biggest steps was switching all of the color profiles in Adobe Systems Incorporated to the Gracol 2006 profiles on Mac operator machines. This, combined with the use of G7 methodology and the production of all the presses and the RIP, tied the process together as a starting point for successful color management.
Once the native files were received, PDI prepped them and sent proofs over to the press. “I went into the RIP and the system named 22 spot colors. I printed a one off and I hit 17 of the 22,” recalls Horton.
During this color matching test, the clients were in house for a first-hand look at the process and resulting quality. “It took about 15 minutes for us to hit every color to their satisfaction,” says Horton. The client was particularly impressed with the effect achieved for neutral gray. Colors meant to look like metallic and zinc do.