10 Jun Overcoming brand color reproduction challenges
Frustrated by color accuracy issues? You’re not alone.
We frequently find that clients and prospects are frustrated with inconsistency in producing their brand colors.
Accurate color reproduction is a huge challenge today for all firms. But it is a challenge that can be successfully met with the right approach, due diligence and testing. A small investment in front-end testing beats countless color headaches down the road any day.
I’m showing my age here, but remember the days when a color was a color? To select colors, you simply pulled chips from the Pantone Matching System (PMS) book, reviewed them with clients for approval, and voila. When a job went to press (because everything printed on presses back in the day), the printer popped open a can of the specified PMS ink and voilà again, done.
Color consistency today is an art form that requires fresh thinking and much testing.
CMYK versus PMS printing
Color consistency today is an art form that requires fresh thinking and much testing, particularly when selecting brand identity colors to represent a company across multiple mediums.
My advice to creatives is to throw away the Pantone book and start out working with RGB/CMYK builds. Although every time I throw the book away it keeps mysteriously reappearing, so I’m getting some internal pushback from our design team.
PMS colors are mixed from 14 Pantone basic colors, including colors like transparent white that just don’t exist in the cyan, magenta, yellow and black world. Digital printing continues to surpass offset in market share for all except the largest print runs. And guess what – digital is CMYK. And within digital there are technologies that use liquid ink and those which use dry toner. And depending on the color chosen, you could get a different result with each process.
Test multiple CMYK builds on multiple paper types
Our agency’s process for determining the optimal CYMK formula for brand colors is to do ink swatch testing using many different color builds initially, to determine which reproduces best.
<img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-18392" src="https://abzcreativepartners.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/color-testing-ink-swatches-300×223.jpg" alt="How to Test Color Accuracy With Print Swatches" width="300" height="223" srcset="https://www.abzcreativepartners viagra generique 100mg.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/color-testing-ink-swatches-300×223.jpg 300w, https://abzcreativepartners.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/color-testing-ink-swatches.jpg 700w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” />Initial testing is done on uncoated, matte and coated papers. Often the different paper finishes require different color builds.
When the color is correct on paper, we then test the CMYK build on other common substrates like vinyl, trade show back wall material, etc. Testing is best done with the client’s actual vendors since colors can vary by printer.
When optimal builds are locked down, we provide clients with approved ink swatches on each different type of material. They can use that as “contract color” that each vendor is expected to match every time.
Okay, maybe we still need PMS colors
Though rare, there are times when a PMS color is still required. Large runs of stationery items are one example. And some sign companies produce with Pantone.
We compare PMS swatches to our CMYK build to reverse engineer a PMS number. Ouch, caught myself needing the PMS book. So how about we just agree to go to it last, not first?
Ensure on-screen color accuracy
Now, add to these challenges that your brand colors are most often viewed on a computer screen or mobile device. So finding a CYMK mix that prints consistently is only part of the battle.
You must test in RGB and Hex on multiple devices and platforms, and be certain that you are using the correct mix.
Office printer color consistency? Forget it.
What about internal office printers you ask? Unfortunately I can’t help you there. There is just too much variation and lack of color profile standardization.
Best you might hope for is to designate one workplace printer as the go-to machine for internally produced documents using branded colors. Your creative team and printer vendor can work together to try and calibrate the go-to printer for accurate color as best they can. Although rarely is it perfect.
Specify your way to consistent color
Color is one of the pillars of visual branding. Consistency is paramount.
Be certain that your brand guidelines include all of these details to help you and your creative partners stay true to your brand, now and in the future.