Imagine doing your shopping like this: When you
ask for an item’s price, you’re told to wait until you
see what’s billed to your credit card. This would
be unacceptable. But we don’t have this problem.
Retailers and the fi nance industry have agreed on a
standard for recording and tracking the exchange.
Without a standard—and more importantly,
implementation of the standard—shopping would be
chaos. This is where we are with exchanging colormanaged
documents. But there’s hope for salvation.
If you’ve been following this series, you know
there are quite a few steps that need to be completed
to set up a color-managed workflow. Now we’re at
the final step. We have set up our system and applications.
Next we want to create a digital file that
can be exchanged with a printer, a file that contains
both the content and the “color intent” of what the
designer hoped to achieve.
From the perspective of a printer, the end game
for reliable color management is to receive a PDF
document that not only represents content but also
displays how the page is to appear.
We’re all familiar with PDF (Portable Document
Format) files. These are cross-platform files created
in Adobe Acrobat Distiller or other applications like
InDesign. The beauty of a PDF is its compactness
and reliability. But a standard PDF file can contain
instructions that will muddy the waters in a prepress
environment. PDF/X, the subsequent development
in this technology, is a more restricted form of PDF
specific to the prepress world. It’s tailored for CMYK
and spot colors, and excludes certain features like
RGB images that would hamper its use by a printer.
PDF/X-3 is a variant of the above that, in addition,
supports the LAB and ICC color profiles discussed
in previous articles. It makes possible a fully
color-managed workflow from creation all the way
through final output. InDesign CS and Quark XPress
6.0 and up support PDF/X-3 file creation natively,
but almost any application can be coaxed into creating
a PDF/X-3 file if it’s printed to PostScript and
processed using the PDF/X-3 filter that’s included
with the more recent versions of Acrobat Distiller.
Creating a PDF/X-3 file is only one
step in a complex process, though. To view
the resulting file you will need to set up
your display to present it through another
filter, an ICC device-linked output profile
that will simulate how the file will print.
If there is one thing I hope you take
away from this discussion, it’s that you’ll
have to work closely with your publisher
or printer in order to accomplish a fully
color-managed workflow. Even though the
PDF/X-3 standard exists, not many have
acquired the technology or “bought into”
the concept enough to implement it. Yes,
the promise is great, but today’s reality is
that we’re metaphorically back in the time
before credit cards and ATM machines.
This final step is more revolution than
evolution. I hope you agree it is time we
eliminate “surprises” with color. You—yes,
you—are going to have to demand for this
standard to happen.
This author wishes you luck … no,
persistence. There was a time when I felt
our industry would never embrace color
management. But now we find ourselves in
a place where we can’t move ahead without
it. Analog proofs consume time and costs
we can’t afford, to say nothing of the pain
that occurs when color doesn’t turn out as
expected. The time for change is now—and
this revolution will be color-managed!
Tips for Adobe CS applications
For more on setting up a color-managed
workflow in Adobe InDesign CS, Photoshop
CS, and Illustrator CS, check out
Need to cut to the chase?
You may be among those who prefer to
jump in and start doing onscreen proofing
without the learning curve of setting up
your own workflow. If so, you can simply
buy a system or contract with a service
provider who can fill the bill. Here are a
Kodak Polychrome Graphics’ Matchprint
Virtual Proofing System reproduces
color with such a degree of accuracy that
many printers keep it press-side. This
SWOP-certified system offers contractquality
display-based proofs. See more at
Remote Director is a monitor-based,
contract soft-proofing system that applies
color management accurately to allow elimination
of hard proofs or overnight delivery
charges. See www.icscolor.com.
RR Donnelley & Sons Co. offers
ShareStream, a SWOP-certified softproofing
system that provides work groups
online access from the creative concepting
stage through page edits, color retouching,
and final page inspection. See if it’s right
for your organization at www.premediatechnologies.com/ShareStream_demo/codebase.html.