Talk the Talk
"The sky is too muddy."
"The fleshtone looks flat."
"The gold is too warm."
"The pants are too hot."
"The sweater is too cold."
"It needs more snap!"
"It needs more 'Buy me!'"
"Get this out of my sight!"
"Oww! My retinas! It burns! It burns!"
"This looks too sliver trombone slippy fish wondering socks."
If you have been in the business of color reproduction for any length of time, you are probably familiar with some or all of these comments. Well, okay, maybe you never heard the last few in that list. And the last one I made up completely. I mean, it doesn't even make sense, does it? If it does make sense to you then put the mouse down and step away from your desk. You've been staring at the computer too long.
Anyway, the problem is that all those terms are too ambiguous. They are all ripe for misinterpretation. Using vague terms like these when communicating color can often lead to extra proofing cycles, delaying the entire prepress production process, and may even effect press schedules.
Last week I posted a blog from a session at the PIA Color Management Conference called Communicating Color Effectively. At this session Don Hutcheson discussed the "Babel Effect" as he termed it. The fact that different people in the color production chain have different ways of describing the same color. The same holds true when trying to communicate desired changes to a given color.
More times than I care to admit, I have been reviewing color proofs with an art director that may describe a color as too warm. I might think, "Okay, it's too yellow." But the art director is really thinking it is too red. In my mind, warm=yellow, red=hot, cool=green, cold=blue. We may be thinking the same way, but communicate it differently, leading to different interpretations. Like the time my wife asked me "Can you clean the bathrooms?", and I thought she said "Can you watch six hours of football?" It's all in how you interpret it.
Knowing how to use proper terminology when marking up or communicating color is critical to the success of color image reproduction. See the link at the bottom of this post for a complete list of common mark up terms used in color reproduction.
So I say get the vague temperatures (cool, cold, hot, warm) out of the color approval process and speak in terms of color only. For a job going to press, it is okay to speak in terms of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. It is also perfectly acceptable to say "more red, less green or more blue". But be careful. Many people say blue, and may actually be talking about cyan. We don't print with blue or red. Blue is made up primarily with the component colors of cyan and magenta. Red is not the same as magenta - magenta needs a fair amount of yellow in order to morph into a color we know as "red".
Better yet, is to describe color alterations as Don spoke about in his session. Think in terms of the LCH color model (Lightness, Chroma and Hue). If a color is too dark, simply say "lighten". If a color is too saturated (chroma) say "desaturate". If an area of an image needs to be a little bluer, say, "Make slightly bluer".
For more information on the many common color mark up terms and their meaning, download the PDF file called Color Mark Up Terminology - A Compendium of Common Color Mark Up Terms Used in Color Correction and Retouching.
You won't find the silver trombone slippy fish comment anywhere in it. I Promise.