Precise Color Matching for Amazing Labels

Precise Color Matching for Amazing Labels

Precise Color Matching is something we are very good at.  Here is how we do it.  On our HP Indigo Premium Digital printing press, in nearly all cases, images are printed using the four primary colors – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK (known as CMYK in the print industry).  Though it is technically possible to purchase premade ‘spot’ colors, they are expensive, problematic, and not used at Rose City Label.

Photographs and complex, multicolor images are quite easy to print on this press.  There are density targets for each of the process colors (C, M, Y and K) and if those color densities are within the proper tolerance, then the image will look correct to the human eye.

Simulating and reproducing solid, spot colors is a bit more complex.  Depending on the color, sometimes just a few percentage points difference in one of the color components make the resulting color visibly different from the target.  This is where color matching comes in.

‘Spot’ Colors – We need a target to match

When we are trying to match a specific color in a large solid area, like a logo element, border, or type, we need something to match to.  The press needs to know what it is trying to print so it can keep that color within a very tight tolerance around the target.  There are two types of targets we can work with – PMS colors and Custom colors.

PMS Colors – the universal language of printed color

Precise Color MatchingPantone is the de facto standard of color communication.  According to the company website, over 10 million designers and producers around the world rely on the Pantone color system.  You can read more by clicking here.  There are hundreds of colors in the Pantone Matching System – also known as PMS colors.  New colors are added every few years as design trends and tastes change.  The beauty of this universal system is that our press knows these colors.  Because they really are a worldwide standard, these colors – and how to print them – are built into our press.  The other huge advantage of using PMS colors is that many designers already have a printed PMS book in their studio – it is a very common design tool.  With this printed color swatch book, we eliminate the time and cost of creating press proofs.

Custom Colors – when PMS isn’t enough

Sometimes despite all the choices available in the PMS library, the color just isn’t right.  In this case, we need to create custom colors.  This is an additional step, but it isn’t difficult if we have a correct, printed standard to work from.  Often to dial in these custom colors, we will provide physical printed press proofs with different variations on the same color.  The customer would review this color proof and pick the color that most closely matches their desired color.

From that chosen printed color sample, we scan that color into our custom color library, and it is retained within the press computer for future runs.  These colors are given a specific, descriptive name for future use, such as ‘Acme Company logo blue’.

Designers – Please read carefully!

The most important thing for designers to know about using ‘spot’ colors in jobs printed on the HP Indigo Premium Digital Press is that you must specifically select the proper color in your label design file.  The computer can’t guess the color you want – it must be very specific.

  •             PMS colors – you must pick the PMS color from within the graphics program (typically Adobe Illustrator).
  •             NEW Custom Colors – you must specify this as a custom color and coordinate with our graphics department to get a press proof (for an additional fee) to finalize and confirm this new color.
  •             Existing Custom Colors – you must specify the exact name of the custom color that was previously decided.  If you submit a future ‘Acme’ label design, but you call the color ‘Acme logo blue’ as opposed to the previously decided ‘Acme Company logo blue’ the computer will not link this new graphic element to the previously designated color.

How we make the colors match

Once these colors (either PMS or designated custom) are properly identified in the label artwork file, then the press magic takes over.  Because the press has a digital image of these colors as a reference, it has a standard to comparePrecise Color Matching the color to.  Throughout the run, as the job is printing, the color is scanned in real-time while the press is running.  Those scanned images on the label are compared and corrected during the run.  The color accuracy during the run is fantastic.

No Standard = No Color Match

Just to restate – none of this magic can happen without a standard to match to.  This standard must be either a PMS color selected within the graphics program, or a custom color that is properly created, named, and used in the label.

Still Not Sure? – No Problem – Call Us Today

We love to provide detailed technical information to help our customers work more efficiently with us.  Ultimately this helps us work together to create the best possible labels as quickly and cost effectively as possible.  But, if you prefer to chat directly with a live person, we are happy to accommodate that too. Our graphics team is always available by phone or email to answer your specific questions.  Together, we can collaborate and make sure your labels are beautiful.


Sustainable Leadership Recognized again!

Sustainable Leadership Recognized again!

Sustainable Leadership

A major label trade magazine -Label and Narrow Web – recently featured Rose City Label in a vendor case study.  Read the full case study here on our website.  They discussed the reasons and benefits for our move to water wash printing plates.  The article is very complimentary to our company and underscores our commitment to sustainability.  We previously discussed our move to water wash plates in this blog post.  We are proud of our sustainable leadership.

The Plates are Fantastic

Sustainable leadership doesn’t mean you have to settle for low quality products.  We are getting massive environmental benefits from these plates, but also getting very fast, clean printing plates on press.  If the plates didn’t print well, we wouldn’t be making this move – even with the environmental improvement.  The product has to work, and this one does work very well.  Our press operators love them and our plate maker has enjoyed the learning process.  Read the news update about our sustainable leadership here on the Label and Narrow Web website. 

No More Chemicals in Plate Making

For many years, the last remaining regulated chemicals in our business were the solvents used to make plates.  This was never a dangerous chemical, but it didn’t smell very good and had to be recycled by a special service.  Eliminating this from our building made everyone happy – especially our plate maker that deals with them nearly every day.

Sustainable Leadership Numbers Don’t Lie

Even with the move to water wash plates – our water usage is still going down!  Water usage is down 33% in 2020 vs. 2019 despite business remaining very strong.  We continue to reduce waste and resource consumption.  Sustainable leadership starts from the front – we have to walk the talk so we measure everything and share the results with our team.  Everyone is proud to work for a company that is doing the right thing.  Our results were shared recently in this post.  We feel it is important to share the information so people know we are taking our sustainable leadership seriously.

We Got Great Support from APR

Customers are critical to our success, but so are great vendors and employees.  Without the support of our vendors, many of our technical advances would not be possible.  In this case, All Print Resources – APR, was a great partner for us in this transition.  They shared the case study on their website here.  Thanks APR for the excellent support.

We Can Help You Too

Part of our responsibility is to help other people get better on their sustainable journey.  We want to be mentors and leaders to other business leaders in our community.  If you want to learn more about our journey, or get tips on how to get started, please let us know.  We want to help you on your journey to sustainable leadership.  There is plenty of opportunity for all of us to improve.  Call us today – we can help.

We are Beverage Can Label Experts!

We are Beverage Can Label Experts!

Beverage Can Label Experts

Because of the great brewery customers that have trusted us all these years, we have become beverage can label experts.  Putting labels on cold, wet cans moving at high speed is not easy.  Excellent machine operators need to keep the speed, tension, and label pressure at optimal levels. Still, without premium labels from bevergage can label experts, you don’t have a chance.

Tons of New Sizes!

Today we print for many, many different can sizes.  16oz and 12oz are definitely most popular, but the 19.2oz can is coming on strong.  A few of our brewery clients are going exclusively to the 4-pack of 16oz cans for all their packaged beer in 2021.  No bottles and no other formats.  Whatever you need, we can help.  We add new sizes to our library every week.

Gateway Brewing is a wonderful community brewery.  They had good success during COVID-19 by offering home delivery of their 16oz cans.  We love working with smart, creative businesses that adapt and stay relevant in tough times.  Check them out at

Cider in Cans, Too!

Most of our beverage can labels are for beer – maybe that is changing.  More and more we are seeing cider, mead, and CBD infused seltzers packaged in cans.  This diversity makes it even more interesting for us.  And the material choices are endless – clear, white, metallic – we lots of options to make your design pop off the shelf.  And, with our very dense white ink, we can provide some amazing effects on clear and metallic substrates – ask us about them when you call with your next project.

Protection Matters!

The label hasn’t done its job until it gets into the consumer’s shopping cart and then into their cooler while still representing your brand image.  This requires lamination.  A laminate (lamination) is a thin layer of poly that is fused over the ink to protect from scuffing.  Most bottles have a ridge or bumper designed into the profile so you never have the label rubbing against the adjacent label – this protection isn’t provided to cans.  Cans are just a perfect cylinder with constant rubbing and scuffing.  Without lamination, your labels will look horrible in the grocery cooler.

Work with Experts!

Thankfully for you, we have made all the mistakes and learned all the lessons.  We work with all the leading mobile canners and we know how to get can labels done on time and budget.  We are beverage can label experts!  Call us today – we look forward to helping you.

Rose City Label Difference!

Rose City Label Difference!

Welcome Home!

In the past 6 months, we have had three different former Rose City Label customers come back to us for labels. When people try other vendors and then come back for ‘the Rose City Label difference’, it really makes us proud of the work we do here.  Interestingly, these were very different companies – a distilled spirits company, an herbal supplement company, and a coffee roaster.  All of them were willing to share their experience, and why they came back to Rose City Label.

We Are All Good

One item to note – nobody came back to us (primarily) for price or print quality. Having competitive pricing and outstanding print quality is almost a given. In today’s market, you can’t stay in business if you don’t meet these minimum requirements.  The difference was service.  Here is a compilation of what brought them back:

Quick Response to Change Requests

When new items are being designed, things often go through many changes.  People don’t know what they will like until they see it on the proof.  These returning customers remarked at how fast and responsive our graphics team is on updated proofs.  We keep the project moving forward and always try to be responsive to the customer.


Offer Good Ideas about Design and Finish

In one case, we suggested eliminating an embossing feature from the conceptual label design. This feature started out as being very important, but when we weighed the cost and time required to add this in, we suggested a less expensive option.  This helped them get the new branding out into the marketplace sooner and saved money over the long haul.  The added cost didn’t seem to be worth it given the small impact on the final design.

Press Proofs – See before You Buy

We charge for press proofs, but we always recommend them on new projects.  These buyers appreciated being able to see the printed label, on the real label stock, before we print the full order.  As good as PDF proofs are, there is no substitute for seeing an actual label.  This protects us from having an unhappy customer and it makes sure the product looks great on the shelf.  This is an extra step in the process, but it is an important part of the customer service we provide.


We Make Them Feel Important

More than anything, these people all said in one way or another that “The other printer didn’t make me feel like an important customer”.   Another said, “It almost seemed like I was a bother to them…”.  Not every buyer is a fit for every vendor, but this one was shocking!  These are established, mid-sized label buyers that will be sending ongoing, repeat business to us for years to come.  It is hard to see how someone would be ‘bothered’ by dealing with a customer.

Want to Join or Re-Join the Rose City Label Family?

We remain very busy and growing, but always have time to add new customers to the family.  We have the quality to meet all your needs, and our service is outstanding.  Please call us today – we look forward to printing for you soon.

Design for Quality Flexographic Printing

Design for Quality Flexographic Printing

Small Changes Make Better Labels

Quality flexographic printing begins with design. By outlining reverse type, adding a stroke to white text, and overprinting elements in one color, your label quality will improve dramatically.  There will ALWAYS be a small amount of misregistration on any printing press, and these simple art techniques can completely hide that from the eye of the consumer.

Reverse Copy is the Killer!

Reversing small text out of multiple colors spells trouble on press. Overprinting (and enlarging) will improve print quality.

When 4 or more colors are printed, with text knocked out, they must be in 100% perfect registration to print clean, crisp white text.  Sadly, at high speed this really isn’t achievable consistently.

Small changes that don’t compromise the artwork integrity provide crisp text on every label.


Outlines to the Rescue!

With a small black outline, you can hide any possible movement on press.  This border around the letters hides any stray movement.  It also makes the small type appear more crisp and readable to the eye.  

Additionally, printing the Independent Craft logo in Black, over the other colors, is another good way to avoid any misregistration.  When an element is only printed in one color, it can’t show any fuzzy edges or movement.


Quality Flexographic Printing

Our presses are nearly magic, but they do have limitations.  Yes, Digital Printing is exploding and fast growing at Rose City Label, but it isn’t the perfect solution for every job.  For long run, repeating work, the proven traditional press technology works very well.  This press is over 50′ long and the paper in the press webs up and down between stations.  This means that the total length of paper between the first and last station is over 100′.  If your print registration (precision alignment between colors) is even off 0.001% that will show to the careful eye.  Learn more about quality flexographic printing here.

What is the penalty for not designing correctly?

The results will not be pretty if these guidelines are ignored.  Luckily, this image is generated within our software to ‘simulate’ a movement of HALF a MILIMETER – this wasn’t printed on press, because we applied the proper corrections before we got to press.  Part of this is handled in prepress, the graphics department within a label company that fixes things like this to make them press friendly.  With out hundreds of years of combined experience, we know how to spot these problems early in the process.  The job of the designer and customer is to trust us, work with us, and allow us to help you get the most beautiful label we can make for you.

Questions?  Call us today.  We can help.