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
Pantone 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 compare 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.