Off-the-shelf software and proprietary, self-engineered solutions—melding the two successfully can ease numerous burdens long associated with color management for flexography.
FTA member Trisoft Graphics, located in Costa Mesa, CA, speaks from experience in supporting the statement.
This premedia services specialist has cultivated and nurtured connectivity by linking workflow and color control systems from multiple sources with born-and-bred in-house prepress capabilities. Since establishing such a series of vast connections, it’s earned a number of FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards with a current count of 10 Best of Show titles.
Here, color has, and always will, play an important part in package printing. And given growing adoption rates on multi-color printing, and a resulting decrease in reliance on special inks, color management takes on increasing weight. What’s been learned?
Company President Tristan Zafra insists on saving customers money on press for flexible packaging and labels—from graphic design and brand management, to prepress, and plate making for the packaging market. To him and his team, it’s the inspiration behind quality craftmanship.
“The goal should be quality and savings on the press,” maintains Zafra. “Sometimes it takes us longer to handle a job in a special way to get a better result. We’re all about quality, so we don’t take shortcuts. We might charge an extra hour of prepress time, but that could save the printer an hour on press setup. One hour of prepress time costs somewhere around $100. One hour on press could be $1,500 to $2,500—a 10-fold difference!”
“If you study FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards entries, part of the judgment process is based on comparing the print to the match print. Our match prints are almost 100 percent dead-on to the printed work,” notes Zafra.
Dating back to 1993, Trisoft Graphics used both a contone digital proofing system—and a traditional proofing system, because it could do dot proofing. “The challenge with contone proofs was that, when we’d go to press and pulled the job up, it didn’t show the minimum dot gain properly. For example, it was really awkward to get control of drop shadows. The traditional proof would not match at all,” says Sonny Ombrog, IT and color manager.
“It put our customer in a bind, because their customers would be standing at the press and saying, ‘Well, look at my proof. It has this beautiful highlight, but your press has got a 10 percent gain there. We couldn’t proof it,’” he explained. What drove Trisoft Graphics to a new digital proofing system a few years ago was that the new RIP could do dot proofing and render spot colors accurately.
Today, nearly all the firm’s proofs are dot proofs because it uses a lot of special screening that’s part of its FlextremePLUS+ technology. “The only way to show it is with a dot proof. It relieves a lot of frustration on press. Using GMG DotProof, the screen angles, screen ruling and dot shape, as well as color of a proof, can be simulated accurately. We can proof what we actually print. That’s what proofing is all about,” says Ombrog.
Art of Integration
Trisoft Graphics looked at different color management systems in 2016 because of its increasing production of expanded gamut (EG) work. The team found that GMG OpenColor made sense as a color engine because it clearly dovetailed into their workflow and further enhanced the capabilities of their dot proof system.
“Initially, we were using something different, that utilized larger test charts,” states Ombrog. “But with subsequent color management software upgrades from our vendors, we were able to integrate the Esko system into our GMG OpenColor data set. In fact, we still use ColorPilot to clean up the data when there are damaged patches, and use Esko’s Photoshop plug-ins for editing EG images. However, for a color engine itself for proofing, we use GMG OpenColor.
“Basically, we really needed our dot proofing system to be capable of EG and then some. We were even experimenting with the ability to do multi-channel work up to 10 colors,” he adds. “The solution we put in place allows us to render spot color overprints more accurately, which is very hard to do. Many RIP spot color libraries are L*a*b*-based. Our system is spectral-based, so it is much more accurate. When that proof sits on the table and the film drops next to it, they look the same.
“We are not using a traditional color management system per se,” confesses Ombrog. “We’ve developed our own mesh of systems, from different vendors, which is quite innovative… it takes a couple of days to learn how each software function works. We want to know everything about each one, since we’re constantly thinking of ways to maximize the software to benefit us, and how to integrate it better into our proprietary workflow.”
Trisoft Graphics first uses color charts on clients’ presses to get a fingerprint. The results are returned to home offices, scanned and imported into the color system, and ultimately sent to the RIP. From there, the RIP references the color mapping system to understand how to proof a job.
“We also have various proprietary techniques that we developed ourselves, from building colors referencing everything we receive from fingerprinting and profiling the press, to custom spot overprints to avoid traps that the job specifies, and optimized separations and screenings that end up on our plates,” explains Ombrog.
“For EG, we use GMG OpenColor for rendering color for proofing, but we utilize a different color management system for normal process work that integrates well with the plates. It allows us to modify a profile’s tonality, and then make a new profile from that modification. Our system is not a siloed system. With others, you have to redo a pressrun. We don’t need to do that. We still use the Esko plug-in to maximize the gamut for EG, but for 4-color process work, we use our other system.”