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One easy way to begin utilizing color in your technical documents and blueprints is to scan construction drawings that have been marked up in color. This method is a great starting point for those who might be skeptical about the benefits of color documentation.

Consider a set of shop drawings that needs 10 pages marked up for 5 different contractors. These would typically be printed in black-and-white and then marked up by hand with colored pencils or pens. That means 50 individual sheets, 50 slight variations, 50 time-consuming colorings at high hourly rates and 50 opportunities for error.

In many cases, these color mark-ups get duplicated in black-and-white for additional users, in which case the color mark-ups become practically invisible. At this point, the hand mark-up process may begin all over again, which results in even more opportunities for error.

The implications of a mistake within the scanned mark-ups resemble a variation of Russian roulette. If even one contractor is given an error laden mark-up plan or blueprint, these mistakes result in delays, rework and budget overruns. A solution to avoid these mark-up errors would lend opportunity for a substantial return on investment.

In some cases, mark-ups are done digitally using Autodesk Design Review or a similar viewing or mark-up application. Reproducing construction plans and blueprints using a wide format color printer would save time and reduce the incidences of errors. However, though these are convenient tools, Autodesk Design Review and similar applications can only be implemented when construction plans and blueprints are presented in a digital format. If construction, engineering or architecture firms don't have access to digital files, marking up one set of blueprints or plans and scanning them in color may be an alternative option.

According to industry reprographers, the practice of scanning construction plan mark-ups in color is increasing in popularity. The resulting digital file sizes of the documents are much larger than the black-and-white originals and may be slow to open and hard to email. However, in most cases they can be scanned as PDFs and compressed significantly using a program such as Adobe® Reader. For example, a D-sized mark-up scanned in color at 150 dpi might result in a 5 to 8MB PDF file, but it can be compressed to less 1MB.

A PDF file that contains the color mark-up information gives designers, contractors and clients more options. The digital blueprint or technical document file can be viewed or printed in color, or it can be distributed immediately. Fortunately, in each of these scenarios, physical mark-ups need only to be done once. As a result, construction firms will benefit from significant time savings and diminished opportunities for errors and omissions, particularly if there are many sheets, many contractors, and many mark-ups.

Most new multi-function wide format printing systems come with color scanners and stand-alone wide format color scanners are also readily available. In addition, many industry reprographers offer scans and prints of color mark-ups in a separate price category from scans of color graphics, which means this method of reproducing prints is relatively easy to implement.

Though the cost of wide format color scanning can appear high, alternatively, the cost of foregoing printing construction documents in color can be even greater. Architectural, engineering and construction firms need to look closely at the total cost of producing and reproducing mark-ups by hand, including the higher incidence of errors that result.

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