We’ve all seen the color gaffes before: the chartreuse blouse prints less green than the actual product or the red dress prints more orange than intended, or the navy coat loses its luster and turns blackish. Whatever the case may be if your customers aren’t seeing the true color of the product in your catalog you are opening up your brand to problems from credibility to lost sales opportunities to higher customer return rates.
Color management is vitally important for all types of product marketing productions, especially when it comes to setting realistic expectations and authentically showcasing your products. Read on to learn about how you can get the best color matching system for accurate on-press match printing.
Why Is Color Management Important for Brand Assets?
Color matching for printing is essential for brand consistency and accurately representing the products for sale in your catalog. Unfortunately in the world of print, many colors that look accurate on screen can look noticeably different when printed due to paper type, ink quality, press calibration, and type of printing press equipment.
Implementing professional color management solutions ensures your brand assets will be accurately calibrated and color-matched to specific print specifications.
Key components that experienced prepress professionals implement include:
- Measuring color with high-quality spectrometric tools coupled with modern International Color Consortium (ICC) profile
- RGB to CMYK colorspace conversions that ensure predictable outcomes
- Calibrate the color of the catalog imagery to the print reproduction characteristics
- G7 proofing technology with paper simulation techniques
When all these factors are considered in advance, the likelihood of a successful print campaign is confidently improved including faithful reproduction of colors in the Pantone color matching system.
Without color management, you risk:
- Inaccurate color printing results in schedule delays, waste, and lost revenue.
- Misrepresentation of your brand, which negatively impacts your reputation.
- Unreliable reproduction of your products in print which can ruin customer expectations and damage the customer experience.
- Higher than average levels of customer returns due to color discrepancies
Pantone Color Matching System and CMYK
In the world of printing, finding the right color and then inking accurately is far from an exact science.
In commercial four-color printing and/or process color printing, the usual primary colors are Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow along with black ink (also called the key – which is where the “K” in CMYK comes from).
CMYK can produce over 16,000 color combinations. Interestingly, the human eye is capable of seeing beyond one million colors, this is where we start to see the color limitations and trade-offs that exist in CMYK printing and the associated mechanical processes of transferring ink to paper.
What is PMS Then?
PMS stands for Pantone Matching System. Much like the CMYK color spectrum wheel, PMS solid colors are uniquely used in printed matter where accuracy is paramount.
The Pantone Matching System is intended to be a way for printers to replicate tones and colors using a specific standardized guideline that is repeatable across many different print suppliers.
Because of this ability to achieve and preserve consistency, Pantone colors are used as a baseline standard for everything from company logos to trademarks to national and state flags. While Pantone colors can be built with a four-color mix (like CMYK), this often results in a color that is a close match but not a perfect match.
Can you give me an example?
Think of Coca-Cola’s iconic red logo. ‘Coke Red’ as PMS 1788 C has been a consistent brand standard since 1941. As the chart illustrates Coke Red as PMS 1788 C ink is a specified formula that will always be the same shade of red.
If you were to try to reproduce Coca-Cola’s red using the CMYK color mix process you will get slight shifts in the final shade of red due to the way inks lay one on top of the other (in the industry it is known as a trap).
There are 2 ways that Pantone colors standardize the way ink goes on paper in the print process:
- As a spot color or fifth color
As you can see in the graphic below, PMS (Pantone) as a spot color is the most faithful representation of the actual color that Coca-Cola specifies.
Something important to understand is that PMS as a spot color can only be used for solid color printing. In other words, you can print your Coke logo or Tiffany & Co box in a perfectly formulated PMS ink.
Tiffany & Co is another excellent example where using a specifically formulated Pantone PMS ink versus a blend of CMYK inks ensures consistent color standards for this epic brand.