How Custom Print Drivers Takes ICC Profile Colour Management to the Next Level

Posted: 9/24/2018

ICC profiles have long been the standard for colour management in digital printing and product decoration. But did you know that with sublimation printing, ICC profiles have some significant limitations that cause you to work harder to get the right colours for your prints?

Under normal profile creation, after a colour swatch is printed for testing, the profiling software knows how to adjust the colours to print out the correct ones. However, when a dye sublimation transfer is pressed onto a substrate, the ink turns into a gas, and while in this state, the colours change properties.

This change in colour properties can be quite dramatic (e.g. some blues look like green on paper), and it is, therefore, impossible to judge whether the print is correct or not until it is sublimated onto the final substrate. It is necessary to create custom sublimation profiles and print management uses of these profiles to create the correct sublimated colour, not the colour on the printed transfer paper.

Custom print drivers, such as PowerDriver and Virtuoso Print Manager, take all these myriad factors into consideration and make it easier to get the right colours the first time and every other time thereafter.

What is a Custom Print Driver?

Custom print drivers are programmes that have colour correction built into the printer control software. The advantage of these programmes is that they are generally easier and less technical to use than an ICC profile and perform colour correction is at the print driver stage.

PowerDriver was Sawgrass’ first custom print driver developed specifically for use with SubliJet-R ink sets with Ricoh 3110 and 7100 printers. PowerDriver offered users an ICC profile built specifically for the ink being used and the ability to fine tune environmental parameters that would impact their colours when pressed.

The chief advantage of the Sawgrass Virtuoso system is the full integration between the printer, ink, software and paper.

Since the Ricoh 3110 and 7100 printers have been discontinued, so has PowerDriver. Ricoh chose to discontinue the 3110 and 7100 printers and focus their efforts on manufacturing purpose-built sublimation printers for Sawgrass Virtuoso HD Product Decorating Systems. The chief advantage of the Sawgrass Virtuoso system is the full integration between the printer, ink, software and paper. While Sawgrass customers experienced great success using PowerDriver with SubliJet-R and Ricoh printers, customers will realize even greater success using Virtuoso Print Manager with SubliJet-HD ink and Ricoh manufacturer SG400 and SG800 printers. Virtuoso Print Manager incorporates all the features of PowerDriver plus many new capabilities to help customers get the most out of their Virtuoso system.

Virtuoso Print Manager is Sawgrass’ universal print management software for Virtuoso SG400, SG800 and VJ 628 printers. Like PowerDriver, it makes getting great colour output easy with CorelDraw, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Unlike PowerDriver however, it works with both Windows and Mac OS and a wide array of graphics programmes, such as Silhouette, subliEVOand CreativeStudioTM.

Virtuoso Print Manager enables you to select specific transfer papers, inks, colour modes and substrates, which the software takes into consideration when processing the file from RGB to CMYK. With the custom settings in Virtuoso Print Manager, getting the right colours is very easy.

The software’s integrated RIP-like tools help streamline production with an advanced array of features, including job and image nesting, hot folders with customisable pre-sets, multilingual user interface, file- and web-to-print workflows and more.

Why You Should Use a Custom Print Driver

An ICC profile is a set of data that ensures that when a specific colour is selected on the computer screen, the designated colour is consistently and correctly delivered on the paper or media being printed upon. Think of an ICC profile as a colour-matching programme, as the screen colour rarely produces precisely the same output colour. An ICC profile creates a link between specific screen colours and specific output colours. An ICC profile doesn’t change the colour, rather it ensures the correct output for a given input.

To use this method, you must work with ICC compliant graphic software (e.g. Photoshop, Corel). The profile will be placed in the output stage of printing and the manufacturer’s (OEM) print driver will be set to ‘No Colour Adjustment.’ This setup will adjust the colour of the image and send the image to the printer without the printer affecting the colours further.

However, when a dye sublimation transfer sheet is pressed onto a substrate, the ink turns into a gas that bonds with the polymers of the substrate. During this “gassing” certain colours will change slightly, so the finished product will not look like the original image on the screen.

You may also notice that colours of the ink printed on your transfer paper are very different from the final image that is created when heat and pressure is applied. This difference is because of the chemical characteristics of the dye sublimation process, and another reason why colour correction is needed.

With sublimation, these issues need to be addressed for each individual printer/ink/paper/substrate combination. That means you would need to create new ICC profiles for each and every combination or, you can us a custom print driver which automatically takes into account the factors involved in the printing and pressing process.

Using Virtuoso Print Manager as your default print driver with SG400, SG800 and VJ 628 printers, you can customise each setting to achieve optimal colours from your system. After all, each component was built to work with all other components of the system. This results in better colours, faster production and less waste all around. It’s a win-win-win!

Learn More About Virtuoso Print Manager