The Lowdown on Hi-Fi Color
Don Hutcheson, consultant and color-management instructor at the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation notes, "Adobe Photoshop still does not support n-color (Hi-Fi) ICC profiles." That is probably why Pantone created HexImage 2.5, an Adobe Photoshop 6.x plug-in for Hexachrome DCS 2.0 files. It has color-correction and soft-proofing capabilities for bit-mapped images and converts raster images into six-color Hexachrome separated DCS 2.0 files. However, Hutcheson points out, "It is a basic program that is meant for designers, not heavy users. True color professionals may find it weak in its functionality."
Hutcheson says he hopes the next Adobe release will include this function, but adds, "The number of inquiries about Hi-Fi is so low at Adobe, I'm surprised they address it at all."
Hi-Fi on Press
Art files require conversion from RGB or CMYK to the Hexachrome process. Hill sends CMYK files to the printer for conversion to Hexachrome. She says she finds the process easy, as the printer does all of the work.
But adjustments to color are almost always necessary, as the color is distorted from the original four-color image. "Most of our adjustments are toning the color back down," says Hill. When asked about flesh tones, Hill says she avoids them as they invariably turn out looking unnatural.
Reid recommends sending RGB for conversion instead. A CMYK file is already limited to that process and misses out on the real benefit of Hexachrome.
Hexachrome reproduces continuous-tones, which are ideal for images with brilliant color, soft pastels and especially skin tones. An original Hexachrome separation produces clearer and brighter flesh tones than its four-color cousin.
Hutcheson points out, "Another possible reason for 'enhanced' color is that printers tend to run to higher-density levels." Hexachrome inks are purer and require lower densities. "Printers also have to be trained to work with a new color mentality," he adds.