Paper is the Fifth Color: The Impact of Paper on Color Management
When we think about color management and what needs to be controlled to get the best result from the technology, we normally think of things such as proper press maintenance, process control aims and tolerances, RIP settings, color management software and the instruments used to take the measurements.
Often forgotten - except perhaps as a small portion of the preparatory steps mentioned above - is the paper to be printed on.
The choice of paper is critical for many designers and is often a fundamental part of the design. From both a design and production perspective, it is important to remember that paper is the fifth color. While many people believe that traditional color management is about managing the CMYK inks and their separations, paper has as much of an influence on the color of the final printed piece, as it does on the mechanical and chemical action of the inks or toners.
The initial choices made on paper selection may have little consideration of the impact later in the production chain, and sometimes have unintended consequences.
Choices are often made based on price, brightness, color, finish, recycled content or other attributes.
But when paper is not directly specified in the design, it often then falls to the printer to specify a paper that fits in with the overall production goals, to meet the customer's general specifications, price considerations and production efficiencies.
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