Paper: The Fifth Color?

Impact of paper on skin tone reproduction: fifth color

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Note: Notice how much of the image above is the result of paper stock. Paper is the color temperature setting of your images on a printing press…

All designers are familiar with the disappointment of losing color saturation when converting to CMYK. The problem is a limited color gamut with offset printing. Through advancements in color management, a larger CMYK color gamut is the new passion in color reproduction. With new color profiles in the color workflow, we are able to expand the chroma of the CMYK color gamut and reproduce more color than ever before.

This is known as RGB to CMYK tonal compression.

Below you will see the color gamut of SWOP profile; generally referred to as the standard in color printing. The HiDef gamut shows the increase in available colors with our CMYK gamut.

This is true high definition printing.

This reference is illustrated at 50(L) lightness, the mid-point between white and black in the LAB color space. All conversions from RGB to CMYK travel through LAB color space before they are mapped into CMYK color space.

This process is known as tonal compression and is the basis of Color Management.

high definition printing gamut
Color gamut comparison of SWOP color profile versus HiDefColor color profile

Why is paper the fifth color?

In the world of print, the illusion of color perception is known as subtractive color theory. As light reflects off the substrate, subtractive primary ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow) act as filters to absorb and reflect primary color (red, green, blue) wavelengths. The “white point”, or highlight, of an image is the foundation for all color we see in a subtractive color situation, and originates from the whiteness of the substrate. Number 1 coated paper will have a lightness channel reading of over 95-96(L). conversely, the “black point”, or shadow, is the absorption of light from the density of the four process inks (CMYK) combined. With increased ink densities, more light is absorbed creating deeper shadows and a wider dynamic range of tones.

Has paper influenced your color reproduction before? Share your thoughts below…



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