Digital Color Professional: A New Path to Differentiation (Case Study)
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Digital Color Professional: A New Path to Differentiation (Case Study)

Color certification. I'm sure you have seen and heard this term bandied about for a while now, and when SGIA decided to develop a Digital Color Professional certification program, I had a very clear vision for what the program should accomplish.

By Ray Weiss, Digital Imaging Specialist, SGIA

But first, let's look for a minute at what led SGIA down this path and look at what has come before this program.

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  • In traveling around the country to meet members and visit their facilities, I've heard one message that stands out from the rest: "How do we differentiate ourselves from other printers in the industry?" There are numerous ways to do that with color. Some involve online courses that you take with testing at the end to indicate completion; others offer some hands-on opportunities; and there are a few robust certification programs focused on a process or target as the expected outcome.

    At SGIA, the goal was a credential that would be a differentiator and which was based in great part on our successful Color Management Boot Camps. Over the last five to six years, SGIA has conducted these boot camps to train students in color management theory and principles - with a robust hands-on component that allows students to use various RIP software to execute the theory and principles they're learning. In the past, these students came away with a certificate, but they had no good way to let others know of their accomplishment.

    SGIA introduced the SGIA Digital Color Professional certification program in 2017.

    This program has two certifications:

    1. Qualified Digital Color Professional: This certification is awarded to any student who successfully passes the 50-question online writ- ten assessment with a score of 88% or higher. The questions for this assessment are pulled from the color theory and principles that are taught in the two-and-a-half-day Color Management Boot Camp. Topics include: color theory and terminology; additive vs. subtractive color space; CIE L*a*b*; rendering intents, viewing and measurement conditions; Delta E tolerancing methods; industry color specifications and targets; color management pyramid; spot color management; verification methods; Spectrophotometer capabilities; monitor calibration; basic printer nomenclature and upkeep; printhead technologies; digital media configurations; GCR and black generation; spot color matching; and verification.
      Attendance at a Color Management Boot Camp is not a requirement to take the assessment. (In fact, we have had two individuals pass the assessment without attending a boot camp. Both have been in the industry for some time and are very involved in color management either through their business or through training.) The online assessment, currently $50, will cost $75 in 2018 to cover the cost of administering the test and the digital badge system (SGIA members receive a 25% discount).
    2. Certified Digital Color Professional: The successful applicant will properly color manage the system back at their facility (environment, printer, and software) and will print out an SGIA designed control print. SGIA will evaluate this control print for Pantone(r) spot colors and industry specification targets. The goal is for an average Delta E of less than five across the eight spot colors, and to come within the tolerance allowed by SGIA on the industry specification target set. The evaluation cost will be $50 in 2018.

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    The goal for SGIA's certification program is to train and to identify professionals who understand color theory and principles, and can manage consistent, predictable and repeatable color on any system they manage. That is why our Color Management Boot Camp workshops spend as much time as possible doing hands-on profiling, spot color matching and verification. We introduce students to the color management pyramid and show them as many different tools as we have available to help them achieve the goal of a well-rounded, informed color management professional.

    Spreading the Word
    It's exciting to see this certification program evolve and grow. We have issued more than 20 digital badges since early 2017, when we offered a Color Management Boot Camp class the opportunity to start down this path. But, I'm even more excited to note that we have three instructors who have embraced this certification program and are taking it on the road.

    Jim Raffel of ColorCasters was the first to conduct a scheduled workshop outside SGIA; he approached Mutoh America about hosting this workshop. Raffel is also working with Mimaki USA to offer a series of the boot camps in 2018 at many of their locations across the US. Dan Gillespie with the Color Management Group is also helping to expand the reach of SGIA's certification program. Dan is working with EFI to facilitate the color management training with an eye toward Digital Color Professional certification, with four events in 2018. And Travis Barcelona with Nazdar Consulting will be offering training events at Nazdar sites in 2018. I'm looking forward to a busy 2018 as this certification program continues to ramp up and expand in reach.

    I am a big believer in giving credit where credit is due, and without a successful color management boot camp to build from, this journey would have been significantly harder. Tony Quinn from National Sublimation (formerly with Nazdar Consulting) and Jonathan Read from Media One Digital Imaging Solutions were a big part of getting the early color management boot camps up and running.

    They put in a foundation that was easy to build upon and it allowed this program to grow as quickly as it has. They both still serve as instructors with SGIA and I am grateful for their participation.

    How Does This Program Benefit Me?
    That's a great question and to answer I'd like to pose two rhetorical questions. Would you like to spend less money on ink and materials? Are you throwing away prints because the color doesn't match to a job you printed previously? Learning how to color manage your printer through this program will lead you to use less ink, and achieve consistent, predictable and repeatable color.

    So Where Is This Program Headed?
    I believe 2018 is going to be a banner year. We still have our boot camps going on at SGIA - we're running four-a-year now - twice what we used to do. And with this great group of instructors helping to push the program forward, I easily see more than 200 badge holders by the end of 2018. It's no longer a question of "Is certification worth it?" It's a question of "When will you become certified?" I hope to see you at one of these events next year.

    This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, November / December 2017 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2018 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (www.sgia.org). All Rights Reserved.

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