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Understanding Color Quality Process Controls

Mike Todryk

IWCO Direct is laser focused on color quality. We are a G7 Master Facility Colorspace across all print technologies and locations and have hosted G7 training for Idealliance twice. IWCO Direct’s Color Technical Support (CTS) team has implemented color quality process control across all of our color print technologies and locations. If it can be measured, we measure it. CTS is constantly pushing the color envelope by developing new techniques to enable G7 calibrations across most digital printers, even the ones that “can’t do G7.”

Common Color Quality Assurance Terms

As color experts, we can say that evaluating your print production provider’s color quality process control doesn’t have to be scary. Understanding some basic terminology and knowing the right questions to ask will get you far. So, what are some of the basic terminologies and concepts that you need to understand to help navigate color QA? There are a couple of concepts that are critical for your understanding:

  • Delta E – There is a lot of confusion surrounding the concept of delta E. At its most basic, it is simply the difference between two colors, expressed as a single number. The larger the number, the farther apart the colors are. A delta E of 1 is technically indistinguishable to the eye. A delta E of 5 or 6 is definitely noticeable. Your print production provider should understand what delta E is and be able to provide you with their standard delta E tolerance. At IWCO Direct, our tolerance is a delta E of 3, which is better color matching than the ISO standard requires. (Here’s how we use dE to help clients maintain color fidelity.)
  • Trends – One of the best ways to track the consistency of a printer or process is with trends. Trend lines show if a printer or process is starting to drift over time, allowing you to proactively correct the drift before it becomes a problem. Ask your print production provider what process control they have in place for their processes—it’s the only way to have consistent print quality.

How Paper Stocks Impacts Color Quality

In my experience, marketing professionals can have some misconceptions about color and color quality assurance. Probably the biggest one is unclear or unrealistic expectations of how print will look on different paper stocks. Most of the time, designers and marketing professionals are looking at designs based on using a coated paper stock, as that is the default in design software like the Adobe Creative Suite and Acrobat Pro. If the printed piece is printing on uncoated offset stock, the color difference can often be striking.

Also, most designers pick Pantone coated colors for their design, even if it’s printing on uncoated stock. Again, this can lead to unrealistic expectations as to how the color will print. Designers and marketing professionals should be looking at the designs in ways that simulate the paper stock it will be printing on. This can get a little complicated, so don’t hesitate to contact the IWCO Direct CTS team who can get you on the right track.

Be sure to check out future posts, when we’ll expand on this topic with a look at why color quality process controls are so important and how to be sure your provider’s controls are up to snuff.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2019/12/11/understanding-color-quality-controls/
Mike Todryk


Mike Todryk

Mike Todryk is a Manager Color Technical Support for IWCO Direct, the leading direct mail marketing services provider in North America. Mike has been in the printing industry for 25+ years, specializing in Color Management for the last 22. He cut his teeth in the demanding world of dye sublimation before transitioning into commercial print. Mike became a G7 expert in 2008, helping his company to become one of the very first G7 Master printers that was exclusively dye sub. Mike is the resident G7 contact for IWCO Direct in Minnesota. When Mike is not geeking out on color, he enjoys playing his guitar and spending time with his family.

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