Colour Troubles
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Colour Troubles

11 Mar 2014


Colour is the basis for what we do as printers; it is one of the most important components in print, but is also the cause of the biggest problems. This blog looks at the main causes for colour troubles in digital print and a few handy tips for when discussing colours with clients.


Unrealistic Expectations


This is an underlying problem with colour management that can only be addressed before the product has been printed and that is through managing expectations. The truth is it is nearly impossible to match existing materials just by using a CMYK reference for a couple of reasons:

  • They will most likely have been printed on a different machine with a different set of inks
  • They could have been produced with an entirely different print process e.g. screen print or litho print where in very high runs near perfect colour matching is achievable
  • Colours change and fade over time, so the signs outside your building will look very different after 3 years


If these are problems you've come across in the past, then the best way to get round it is to send one print which has the 'right' colour on it, and ask your printer to use that s a reference for the colour. It doesn't mean they can match it, but it means your blues will be blue, rather than purple or your reds will be red rather than orange.


Pantone misconceptions


Pantone colours are a bit misleading, because they lead people to believe the colours on their screen or their printed reference will be the same with all of their prints, as long as they use that pantone reference. The truth is very different. Inks react different to different substrates and different print processes, so even though pantones can be a good starting point, they cannot be used as the be-all-and-end-all. Again, if you supply a printed sample of the colour you'd like, you can influence how the final print will look, irrespective of the pantone reference given.


To Sample or not to Sample


In an ideal world every print will have a sample before its made. But unfortunately we don't live in an ideal world. So the best practice is to consider the quantity, usage and importance of the colours. If your print fits the right criteria, and you have enough time, then get a small sample made. You'll soon know when you see it if the print is right for you as you can check it against any other printed materials you already have. The trick is to be a bit prepared and give yourself time to have any prints produced, and then you've got a better chance of avoiding these sorts of problems!