What Is Colour Gamut in Plotter Printing?
Colour gamut has a powerful impact on plotter printing quality. For the highest-quality plotter prints, graphic designers, photographers, and AEC print technicians must determine the most suitable colour gamut settings for their purposes. When colour gamut digital imaging and plotters themselves are correctly set, you'll achieve more vibrant colours that more accurately represent the screen's display.
It can be challenging to fully comprehend how colour gamut affects plotter printing, let alone the technical details that make the most difference to your exact needs. If you've wondered, "What is colour gamut?" we've compiled the fundamentals that will help you get more out of your large-format plotter print runs.
Colour Gamut Explained — Understanding the Colour Gamut Range
Colour gamut is the total range of colours a screen or printer is capable of producing. So, what is colour gamut as far as AEC firms and other technical users are concerned?
The actual colour gamut data is displayed over a graph. Each colour is uniquely positioned on the X and Y axes. A larger span of colours results in higher gamut levels, resulting in richer and more vibrant displays or prints. Exactly which colours become more vivid primarily depends on which colour gamut digital imaging standard is used.
Top Three Standards of Colour Gamut
What is colour gamut in technical terms? Most colour gamut standards pre-date most modern technologies, but they are all still useful in their own way. For printing or plotting purposes, each colour gamut system has its own characteristic style and limitations when translated into actual prints.
Created by HP and Microsoft, sRGB provides minimal lag time between the digital input and output of colour information. The sRGB standard can represent virtually any colour shown on today's most common monitors and screens. It's become the most common digital colour standard and is on a wide variety of digital devices.
Abode's digital colour standard is very popular with LCD technologies. But it produces more colours than CMYK printers can achieve. Adobe RGB operates over HDMI and provides a wider colour gamut than sRGB — although both achieve 256 separate red, blue, and green values, resulting in 16 million colours. The difference is that Adobe RGB spreads those colours out more, with less gradation between values.
NTSC is often used in video and photo editing to compare and indicate colour gamuts. It's similar to Adobe RGB and has an even wider colour range. However, it produces red and blue differently, which could present confusion when technical and design drawings use lighter reds and blues (for instance, to represent hot and cold pipes).
Additive vs. Subtractive Colour Models
Screens and computer monitors use an additive colour system, combining red, green, and blue light to create many different colours. But print devices use a subtractive process, removing or reducing certain colours from the print medium itself by applying layers of CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) dots.
This difference results in printed colours that may not exactly match screen displays. Essentially, they have different colour palettes. The solution is to maximise the colour gamut with better settings, print materials, and printer plotter technologies.
What Factors Affect Colour Gamut in Plotter Printing?
What is colour gamut's role in improving the prints of large format plotters? By increasing your plotter printer's palette, you ensure more of the colours on the screen are accurately translated to your paper or other print media. This can be done with advanced inks and print media, as well as the type of print technology itself.
1. Ink Types
Increasing the number and type of ink used is the most direct way to expand your plotter printer's colour gamut. In addition to standard CMYK inks, some devices also accommodate:
- Vivid magenta
- Photo magenta
- Photo cyan
Different shades of grey and black are also available, particularly with photographic printers. Altogether, a greater range of inks will widen your colour range and shading quality.
2. The Media Being Printed On
The medium itself plays a large role in how subtractive printing results in a broader or narrower range of colours. This means paper qualities, including brightness, weight, and other factors, play as much of a role in colour gamut as ink.
Expanding into other mediums, such as latex, can also boost colour gamut possibilities. Latex makes more vivid colours and sharp blacks possible, and it's perfect for the ultra-clear signage and display needs of engineering and construction sites.
3. Type of Print Technology Being Used
Plotter printers themselves play a central role in overall print quality, including especially colour gamut. How a plotter applies ink affects colour accuracy and sharpness. Higher-quality print materials can combine with cutting-edge plotter technologies for maximum effect. Choosing a printer plotter with this in mind will immediately expand the colour gamut. For example, the HP DesignJet Z Pro offers 93% Pantone coverage with chromatic RGB HP Vivid Photo inks. That’s a 26% increase in gamut compared to previous-generation printers.
Importance of Colour Gamut in Plotter Printing
What colour gamut is best for you depends on your industry and your exact purposes. Generally, an enhanced colour gamut will increase your prints' accuracy and vibrancy, dramatically impacting how people perceive them.
How Colour Gamut Impacts Colour Accuracy and Vibrancy
What is colour gamut's role in colour accuracy? With a wider gamut range, the plotter printer can more effectively match your digital image. Because of the difference in colour gamut capabilities for digital images v. printing, improving your plotter's colour gamut is the surest way to produce bolder images that match screen displays.
How Does Colour Gamut Affect the Perception of a Printout?
More visually stimulating prints will communicate your project's vision more clearly and dramatically. Audiences will associate the greater vividness and sharpness of your images with an overall higher quality brand that invests in superior products.
Why Is Colour Gamut Crucial in the AEC Industry?
AEC professionals must often convey the most granular and complex details at a glance. For instance, making light blues and greys more distinct in a structural or mechanical drawing could have mission-critical significance. Technical illustrations must achieve the same promotional effect expected of graphic designers. Also, computer-aided design must be calibrated to what the plotter printer is actually capable of.
What colour gamut is best from an architectural standpoint may be very different from what engineering technicians need. Surveyors and design engineers may use their own colour schemes to convey information relevant to their own trade.
Consult with your team to gain a better understanding of which colours are most important for your work. Then contact your trusted large format printing expert for help selecting the right materials and technical processes to achieve the appropriate colour gamut for you.
Tips on How to Maximise Colour Gamut
Now that you know what is colour gamut, learn some quick tips about using it more effectively.
1. Use ICC Profiles
What is a colour gamut's ICC profile? An ICC profile defines the colour qualities of a particular device. It allows more accurate prints by allowing print technicians to translate differences between colour gamut digital imaging and the plotter printer's actual capabilities. You can often find pre-set ICC configurations from your trusted large format printer supplier.
2. Use Colour Calibration
Take some time to set your monitor to better match the colour gamut achievable by your plotter prints. Most displays come set to nearly the maximum colour gamut possible. But this doesn't serve the need for accurate prints.
Take some time to match your prints to your monitor's output by adjusting the following display settings, as possible:
- Colour space, noting which colour gamut standard is used
- Colour profile (not to be confused with the colour profile of digital image files)
- Brightness, starting with 120cd/m2 (candelas per square meter) — the ISO's standard for image viewing conditions
- Saturation, setting it by feel until it matches the prints
- White point, where 5,000 K (Kelvin) is considered warm, and 6,500 K is much cooler
Alternatively, you can invest time into software monitor calibration tools. Most operating systems have their own, or you can explore third-party options.
3. Choose the Right Media to Print On
Work with an experienced large format printer vendor to determine which paper type will best support your printer's gamut range. Along with plotter printer paper size, paper quality is just as important as ink quality. Both must work together to achieve a colour gamut that matches your display’s.
4. Choose the Right Ink
Upgrade your plotter printer's ink, and explore which expanded ink options it may accommodate. See the "Ink Types" section above for more information. Even if you can't accommodate more ink types, ensure you're using the highest-quality CMYK inks to begin with.
Reach Out to HP to Learn More About Colour Gamut in Plotter Printing
If you're still unclear on what colour gamut is best for you or would like colour gamut explained in more vivid detail, contact an HP sales expert and learn more about what is colour gamut. You can also book a virtual product demo at the HP Virtual Booth and see for yourself the difference colour gamut can make to your AEC plotter prints.
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