Faxing in Color

I’m an illustrator by trade, and while many of my clients are happy to have me e-mail them drafts of my works-in-progress, I’ve also been asked if I could “just fax it.” I’m OK with some of the image quality being lost in transmission, but I really wish I could fax in color. Is this possible?

Yes, it’s quite possible to fax in color. Inkjet printers have made it less costly to print in color, and some fax machines and all-in-one printer/copier/fax machines boast of the capability to send and receive color faxes. The problem is, even if you invest in a color fax machine, or upload and transmit color faxes via an Internet-based fax service, they might not get to their destination in color. That’s because in order for a color fax to be received, the recipient must also have a color-capable fax machine. Not only that, oftentimes both parties need to own fax machines from the same manufacturer. The standard for faxing in color is ITU-T30e, which does not enjoy wide support.

Several manufacturers are marketing full-color fax machines. Brother, Hewlett-Packard and Canon are just a few of them. But until color fax machines are in widespread use it won’t really give you a leg up when it comes to sending faxes. However, companies with branches in different cities could find such technology helpful.

It does seem a little backward that we aren’t all faxing in color, but society had to wait awhile for the color TV, too. Your best bet, for now, is to continue attaching your artwork to e-mail whenever possible. Another reason for this is that it takes traditional fax machines extra time to convert color images to black-and-white. Since your clients won’t see the color anyway, it would be a good idea to first digitally convert your artwork to black-and-white if you have to fax it.

As an aside, in researching this answer I learned that the first color fax machine was actually invented in 1946 and described in an issue of Popular Science magazine the following year. The Colorfax used colored pencils to fill in the image on the receiving end!

Do you have a question about faxing? Send me your fax question.