Web2Print is a multi-billion dollar industry with hundreds of providers opting to offer online print ordering to customers. A print provider can choose from dozens of software solutions according to Web2PrintExperts.com. There are many aspects to consider when tying current internal and external processes into a new software solution, and perhaps color-management should be high on the provider's list of important factors to consider. As online shopping and mobile purchasing continues to grow, we wanted to ask, "what happens to my color?"
Many factors affect color consistency throughout the capture, ordering, and printing processes. Some of these include: the initial capture device, the conversion from RGB to CMYK for printing, conversion to PDF (most W2P request PDF files), the print provider's RIP conversions, the specific press, color specifications and standards set by the print provider, and vendor ink consistency, among others. Even with industry standards such as GRACoL and SWOP it is difficult to control all the variances the consumer introduces into the system. Although, there are many questions about color consistency and Web2Print that could and should be asked, the overall question this study addresses is "What happens to the expected color in our files when we upload them to ten popular Web2Print portals?"
With a multifactor analysis of variance of over 7200 L*a*b* readings, we found that in the GRACoL CMYK color space, the average ?E value across multiple colors is slightly smaller than in the RGB color space. Grey tones measure the highest ?E values in both color spaces- RGB and CMYK- than any other color group. Additionally, skintones are slightly closer to their intended values in the GRACoL color space. All print providers attained the lowest ?E values, and therefore the closest visual match, in the grey tones regardless of the provided color space.