>When you talk with your customers, how do they typically express color terminology? If they’re like many, phrases such as “The sky is too dirty.”, “The apple is too warm.”, “It needs more POP.”, “It looks too brass trumpet, gold fishy.” are common. OK, maybe not the last one. I just made that one up to emphasize some of the ridiculous comments customers have made over the years.
The problem here is that all the descriptive terms commonly used are too ambiguous. There is considerable chance for misinterpretation when using ambiguous terminology to describe color. Using vague terms when communicating color can lead to delays in prepress and production schedules. I’m sure some of you have been in the situation where “…the gold in her jewelry is too warm, and the sweater needs more (insert one: Snap, POP, Oomph).”
During my days in production, I often found myself viewing prints with a customer that may have described a color as too warm. I would think, “Okay, it’s too yellow.” But the customer may have been really thinking it was too red. In my understanding of color, “warm” equals yellow, “red” equals hot, “cool” equals green, and “cold” equals blue. We may have been thinking the same way, but communicated it differently, leading to different interpretations. Like the time my wife asked me “Can you vacuum the house while I’m gone?”, and I thought she said “Can you watch eight hours of NCAA football?” It’s all in the interpretation.
Knowing and using proper terms when communicating color is critical in the success of color reproduction. Remove those vague terms (cool, warm, hot, etc.) from the approval process and try to use color terms. It’s OK to use Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black because these are the colors we print with. Even stating a color or particular area of a print needs less Red, more Green, or less Blue, is OK but be careful because customers may often say blue, but actually mean Cyan. We don’t print with a red or blue ink. Blue is made up primarily of cyan and magenta. Red is not the same as magenta – magenta needs a fair amount of yellow in order to transform into a color we call “red”.
The customer is but one piece to the color terminology puzzle. Think about the entire workflow and how color terms change based on who’s involved. Here’s an example:
Many color experts promote using the LCH color model (Lightness, Chroma, Hue) when communicating, approving, or commenting on color. If a color is too dark, simply use the term “lighten”. If a color is too saturated (chroma) use the term “desaturate”. If a specific area of a print needs to be a bit bluer, use a phrase like “Make slightly bluer”. The crayon can be used as an analogy to illustrate what LCH is. You do remember crayons, right? Hue is the color of the crayon (red, blue, etc…), Chroma is how hard you press down with the crayon, and Luminance changes based on the media or substrate and its brightness and color temperature.
The key requirements when communicating color include:
- Education (Client & Self)
- Proper use of ICC profiles
- Proper use of standard color terms
- Controlled viewing conditions
- Consistent, controlled printing conditions
- Education (Client & Self)
We communicate in the context of color on a daily basis for various reasons – to describe a desired effect, to correct or edit color, to critique a print job, or to control a file in the print queue. Color is a science and all of these examples require the ability to effectively communicate color. To emphasize the importance of client and self education, you need to accept the fact that color education is a never ending task and is a cost of doing business.
Submitted by Johnny Shell, SGIA