Where did you learn about color management?
Some of us learned on the job. Others went to school to study color. Regardless of your career path, there’s no denying the importance of color education.
At Datacolor, we love teaching our customers and helping them improve, and we love learning more about color ourselves along the way. But we can’t do color education alone. That’s why we support the Wilson College of Textiles at North Carolina State University. Here, you’ll find the Datacolor Color Science Laboratory, equipped with a range of software and instruments for students to practice with and learn from as they prepare for a career working with color.
Recently, we spoke with Dr. Renzo Shamey, CIBA Professor and Director of Color Science and Imaging Laboratories at NCSU, about the importance of color education. Shamey also previously served as president of the Inter-Society Color Council (ISCC). He believes that investing in color science resources can help elevate the industry.
The Truth is, Color is Complicated
“Color is more complex than people may think,” says Shamey. “Anyone involved in the supply chain must have a good understanding of color perception, light-object interactions and basic modeling principles.”
In other words, color education isn’t just for color managers. Knowing the basics of color science can help employees throughout an organization communicate more seamlessly.
“Understanding how to communicate color minimizes the possibility of misinterpretation— potentially saving countless hours of production and needless arguments,” says Shamey.
Teaching the Next Generation of Color Experts
Shamey’s dedication to color research is matched only by his enthusiasm for teaching. “I love seeing the ‘aha moment’ when students understand a difficult concept or solve a challenging textile or color problem,” he shared.
The secret to a successful career in color, according to Shamey, is to pursue lifelong learning. He encourages his students to stay curious.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” Shamey said. “Ask yourself, ‘why is a rainbow visible in the first place? Why are its colors in that order?’ It is only when you ask those basic questions that you learn the important stuff.”
Improving Your Own Color Education: Where to Start
Given the complexity of the topic and the rapid growth of new technologies, there is virtually no limit to what industry professionals can learn about color. Shamey and Datacolor experts recommend diving into the following areas:
How we see color depends on physical conditions such as lighting, background and even altitude. Colors, Shamey explained, are personal, subjective psychological experiences that are also affected by factors such as age, mood and medications.
This variability in perception means color managers need to stay vigilant about the quality of their samples, says Hans Jörg Schulze, Senior Sales Manager, EMEA Region at Datacolor. When checking color, Schulze explained, “look closely at the quality, homogeneity, age and stability of your samples,” and be aware of surrounding conditions, such as temperature, humidity and light, which can change color perception.
Measurement and communication
Learning how to measure color is key to communicating across the supply chain, said Jason Loehr, Global Product Manager at Datacolor. “It’s impossible to accurately describe color over the phone, and in today’s fast-paced world, there’s no time to send physical samples, either. The only way to communicate color to others with any accuracy is to measure it,” he said. “Only then can you view it remotely, compare it to other colors, and adjust it to create the perfect color.”
Inter-instrument agreement (IIA)
Getting consistent product color can be challenging, especially when measuring color across multiple locations in the supply chain. “Inter-device variability is a tough concept that color professionals must understand in order to minimize,” said Shamey.
Using a cutting-edge spectrophotometer is ideal, but color managers also must know how to properly use and troubleshoot issues with this complex instrument, says Fred Olschewski, Sales Manager at Datacolor in Europe. His tip: “Install and maintain a standardized process to look at color. You’ll need repeatable sample preparation, clean surfaces, a standard viewing environment, and standardized procedures.”
Color education resources are easy to find if you know where to look, said Kate Edwards, Research Scientist at Datacolor. “Attend professional webinars and conferences to expand your knowledge,” said Kate, who recommends finding online resources at the Inter-Society Color Council (ISCC) and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC).
Edwards also advised expanding your network. “Connect with someone with solid color experience in your industry, and see if you can establish a mentoring relationship,” she said.
Meanwhile, Datacolor’s webinars cover a range of color management topics, including how to use and maintain a spectrophotometer, how to create digital samples, and the do’s and don’ts of measuring. Datacolor also has created a series of educational e-books on color measurement, color perception, the natural classification of colors and the fundamentals of colorimetry.