Why Can’t My Offset Printer Match His Own Digital Samples?

The most frustrating continuing problem in the fabric and garment field is color matching. I’m not talking here about matching solid colors in large-scale textile production, which is a separate problem. I mean matching the designer’s intention when printing patterns and designs, particularly in a dye sublimation environment. Why is it so difficult for printers to match color?

First of all, dye sublimation is an admittedly difficult craft. There are variables in ink, presses, fabric, the pressing process and 1,000 other places. In addition, the colors being matched are often very difficult, but why is it that printers often can’t even match their own digital samples?

Part of the problem lies with the nature of fashion design itself. A product may contain pastels, neutrals, bright colors, dark colors and light colors, all within a single design. Hitting all those colors can be difficult, especially when an adjustment to make one color better may only make another color worse.

But the real problems go much deeper. Fundamental flaws in every step of the process contribute to the problem:

  • Improper lighting and viewing conditions
  • Uncalibrated monitors
  • Incorrect application settings
  • Poor color correction techniques
  • Incorrect working color spaces
  • Uncalibrated digital printers
  • Inconsistent offset press results
  • Inconsistent heat transfer practices
  • Paper and ink variations

But by far the biggest obstacle to accurate color matching is the complete lack of standards or process control practices in the dye sublimation printing field. I will be covering all of these topics in future posts.

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