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Panpa Bulletin : April 2007
26 PANPA Bulletin March 2007 production Newspaper printing is all about colour manipulation. Whilst printers may know a lot about ink and paper and rollers and blankets, these are basically just the tools we use in order to create and man- age the colours required. Because, ultimate- ly, that's all that newspapers are: surfaces for reflecting light in such a way as to stimulate the perception of colours and tones. How we interpret those sensory readings is what gives meaning to them, and it is this act of interpretation that enables newspapers to become the carriers of all sorts of messages. The most important part, however, is mak- ing sure that we read and understand those messages correctly by ensuring that what we see 'on the page' is accurate in the first place. Buthowdowedothatandhowdowe ensure that the colours we see retain their accuracy day after day? Ask an inky There is perhaps nobody better placed to discuss the mechanics of how colour is created than an ink company. After all, making colour is their business. So, for the past year or so, DIC Australia has been run- ning a series of workshops throughout the newspaper industry to outline the basics of colour and its use. The workshops cover a number of topics. An important component of the workshops is an explanation of how colour is formed and perceived, and in particular, how simple it is for the human eye to be fooled by colour. We say the "eye" but, in reality, what we are talking about here is the brain. The eye is simply the receptor of the light waves reflected off the surface we are observing; all the hard work involved in interpreting that stimuli takes place in the brain, and this has important implications for those people, such as printers, whose livelihood depends on getting colour right. For a start, the human brain is very poor at retaining colour information. While we are able to recall different sounds and tastes to a high degree of accuracy, our ability to retain colour information from day to day is much more limited. We may think that we can recognise a particular shade of red day after day and know if it is correct or not, but in reality our brains lack the ability to make accurate and precise comparative judgments over time by relying on memory alone. To make even remotely competent visual assessments, we need to be able to compare like with like. Even then, as these workshops demon- strate through various examples, it is still possible to fool the brain into seeing two dif- ferent colours even when two samples of the same colour are in close proximity to each other. This is a result of how we interpret the colours we see and the fact that our reading of any particular colour is always influenced by varying conditions such as different back- grounds and adjoining colours. Attendees at last year's PANPA and SWUG conferences would no doubt have seen examples of this phenomenon presented by DIC Australia's web technical services man- ager Steve Packham, who demonstrated the ease with which the human brain can be tricked in to seeing two different colours when in reality there is only one. In short, humans are very poor judges of colour, however well trained we may be in assessing it from day to day. A solution for all The difficulty in making subjective colour judgments highlights the problems facing a colour medium, such as newspapers, that is designed to be viewed in different environ- ments and under varying conditions. If everybody reads colours differently -- and can be fooled into seeing colours that are not there -- how will we ever be able to see eye to eye, so to speak, on whether a colour is correct or not. And yet, being able to do so is fundamental to the operation of the newspaper industry. The more common knowledge that people share about how colour works, the less likely it is that we will all be fooled by it in the end. Ian Johns is web director with DIC Australia, manufacturer of a wide range of specialist ink products. For more information visit DIC's website at www.dic.com.au Colours ain't colours Newspaper printers use it everyday and their livelihoods depend on it, but how well do they understand colour? Ian Johns explains that knowing what colour is and how it works is the rst step towards ensuring that it is used correctly. Because of their reliability Ishihara's test charts are used worldwide. Most people will perceive the number 12 in plate N° 1 (left). In plate N° 2 (right) normal vision will perceive the number 74, but people with red-green de ciency will see the number 21. People with total colour blindness are unable to read any number. The principal and basis for the test chart are the quality of the colour and the colour arrangement. The charts reproduced here are not a quali ed test because of the limits of 4-colour process reproduction. Any test should only be applied and interpreted by a quali ed person. Source: Ishihara's Tests for Colour De ciency' published by Kanehara Trading Co., copyright of Isshin-kai Foundation / Web O set Champion Group "How to get colour approved rapidly".