What Is a Custom Test Print in Color Management?

Running a custom test print is one of the best printing practices any creative director or printer can adopt.

It’s one of the premier ways to confirm your color choice and color accuracy so you can avoid color shifts when printing. That’s not all, but test printing is also used as a form of troubleshooting your press and making sure your printer(s) are working as they should.

A test print enables you to have a direct image that you can use to gauge the color quality of subsequent printing work. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s break down what a test print is.

What is a Custom Test Print?

A distinction must be made between the following terms – custom test printing and custom test print.

Custom test printing: is the process of printing an image, text, or graphic that will be used for color management purposes.

Custom test print/image: is the actual printed image, text, or graphic that results from the test printing process.

If you’re doing some print work for brands, generating a test image with a color bar might be a good idea. This test print will be the benchmark against which all future brand work – including colors – is rated.

The test print acts as a framework and helps guide the printing and color management processes.

Now you may be wondering about the benefits of test printing. Let’s consider three of the significant advantages.

The Benefits of a Custom Test Print

Custom test print in color management brings with it an array of benefits. From potentially saving you time and money to giving you leverage to use when evaluating color, there’s a lot to be said in favor of test printing. Below we’re going to focus on just three custom test printing benefits:

Custom Test Print

Benefit #1 Allows you to evaluate the health of your printers

Do you want to know one of the fastest ways to check the state of your printer and cartridges? It should be a no-brainer at this moment, but yes, by conducting a custom test print.

Not only does such a test enable you to verify and calibrate your printer’s performance, but it will also highlight any problems that you may need to tend to. This first point leads us straight into the next, which is…

Benefit #2 Alerts you on possible press problems

The number of problems that can present themselves at printing can be colossal. This is particularly true if you only use your printers occasionally.

Conducting a routine custom test print will quickly point out any possible press problems that may exist so you can address them ahead of time.

Benefit #3 Assists you in testing color consistency

Another significant benefit of a custom test print is its ability to help check color consistency for projects.

You have the option to print a color gamut as your custom test print so you can see the scope of colors you have to work with if you so wish.

Your custom test print will assist you in avoiding color shifts and facilitate color correction before starting the printing for any work for your clients.

Now that we’ve familiarized ourselves with the benefits of a custom test print, let’s dive into things you should keep an eye out for during this testing.

What to Look Out for in a Custom Test Print

When analyzing your custom test print, you want to check for issues such as:

Alignment problems: Images that appear skewed during a test print may indicate printer alignment issues. There could be mechanical parts of the printer that have suffered damage or cartridges that aren’t sitting correctly.

System problems: Communication issues happen when a printer fails to print in succession or refuses to print other documents. What’s usually going on here is a system problem with the printer that needs to be rectified as soon as possible.

Uneven ink flow: A test print can reveal an inconsistent or variable ink flow. This tells you whether or not the printer cartridges are faulty and need to be replaced. Color composition and line strength are tell-tale signs of inconsistent ink flow.

Plugged printheads: Printheads are critical components of a printer setup as they are the funnel through which ink is transferred to a page. Infrequent printing can result in ink collecting within the printheads, drying, and clogging up the space, making printing difficult.

How to Create a Custom Test Print

Now that you know what a custom test print is and its benefits, let’s look at how you can create your test image.

Step 1 Select key colors

The test image must contain critical colors that will help you do your color management job with greater ease. By this, we mean that your test image should consist of several color contrasts, grays, and skin tones.

Step 2 Run the test

Once you’ve taken a picture that includes all the critical colors you need, print it out. This test print becomes your standard against which you will measure and evaluate colors in subsequent prints.

Step 3 Memorize the test image

Memorizing the test image and its colors in your mind’s eye means that you won’t have to keep referring to your test print when you start the printing process. You’ll know exactly what the colors should look like. Controlling colors becomes easier.

The Bottom Line

Custom test printing is a reliable and affordable means of testing both print quality and the state of your printing presses before significant printing.

Whether you’re working on a simple project or one that’s a little more complex, you can never go wrong with carrying out a test print to verify that all is well.

Let test printing become second nature and standard practice if you work in color management. It’s one of the best practices any professional creative director and printer can adopt.

If you’re a marketer keen to learn more about color management, do check out our blog How Color Quality Affects In-Store Advertising.