At Wells & Drew, we are commonly asked if we can match the color in a client’s logo. Nine times out of ten, the client is referring to the color on their computer screen. It seems simple. You just email us the logo and we match the color, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
Each computer screen’s contrast settings are different. The color that you see on your screen may be completely different on another computer monitor. In this picture, above I loaded the same artwork on two computers with different monitors. As you can see, the different settings on the two monitors result in dramatically different colors. Note that the colors in the logo on the left-hand monitor are much darker.
Because your monitor may display colors differently from ours, we cannot match what you see on your monitor.
The solution to matching your color
The way we can ensure that we print the color you want is by using a Pantone Book, often referred to as a PMS (Pantone Matching System) book, which is an industry standard color guide that is organized by number.
This is how the process works behind the scenes:
- A designer is working on a new logo for a client. She looks in the Pantone book and choses Pantone 206U. She shows this to her client, who agrees with the choice.
- Once the number is selected and given to us, it is written on a job ticket, then given to a pressman, who looks up 206U in the Pantone book to find the mixing formula guide.
- The pressman mixes 14 parts Pantone Rub. Red with 2 parts Pantone Yellow to create the Pantone color 206U. The pressman then inks the press and prints your job.
The below picture displays the formula to create Pantone (PMS) 206U
What if a completed job doesn’t match the PMS color selected?
There are two PMS books: uncoated and coated. The same colors look different in one book than in the other because of the types of paper they are printed on. A common mistake is for someone to ask us to print a color on uncoated stock that they viewed in a coated pantone book.
When they received their printed materials, the color will appear to be off.
When a coated PMS color is printed on uncoated stock, the ink absorbs into the paper. This results in a much different appearance than if printed on coated stock, which would not absorb ink the same way. In the image above, the PMS book on the left is uncoated stock, while the book on the right shows the same colors on coated stock.
Does color consistency really matter?
Color matching is very important to some clients, while others do not require color matching to be exact. The majority of our clients rely us on because we can match colors throughout their whole brand identity.
This is particularly significant for brands that require consistency throughout all their marketing materials.
When color consistency is required as part of your brand identity, forget digital printing and four-color process; the only viable options are printing with pantones via offset or (as the next step up) using engraving for color consistency.
Another common mistake to avoid
Another common problem occurs when a client tells their printer to use a particular PMS color, such as 281U, for a job such as printing business cards. Over time, the printer may be slightly off on the color they print, so each time the business cards are printed they get a bit further away from the original PMS color.
However, because the color changes slowly over time, the client may never notice the change.
If the client now calls a new printer and tells them to print business cards using PMS 281U, the color of the new cards will not match the color of the previous cards. This occurs because the new printer actually printed the correct PMS color. The solution to this problem is to send the new printer a real sample of the current card and give them a PMS number. This way, they can compare the two and notify the client of any discrepancies in color before printing the job.
Why does my Pantone color look different on different paper?
Pantone colors are not opaque, so a color printed on white paper will look different from the same color printed on grey or off-white paper
I chose a metallic gold Pantone; why doesn’t it look like real metallic gold?
Pantones do not come in true metallics. The only real metallic color is an engraving ink, as shown in this picture.
This is one feature that attracts many marketers and designers to engraving. Environmentally friendly and water-based, engraving inks offer the most vivid colors of any printing process.
This type of ink also requires high quality paper with a percentage of cotton. There is also a formula mixing guide that enables us to match any Pantone color. However, it should be noted that an engraving ink will never look the same as a Pantone ink and vice versa, as these are different printing processes and different types of ink.
Which is better, Pantone Color or four-color process (CMYK)?
One is not necessarily better than the other, as they have different uses. Four-color process (also known as color process printing) is mixed on the press, using four colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and black.. The color created is not exact every time because of the different variables between printing presses and different press operators. Pantone colors (also known as spot color) are solids that are mixed from the formulas in the Pantone book, as described above. This allows all printers to print the same color. Pantone colors are widely used for corporate identities because of their consistency.
What about digital printing?
A digital press actually does not use “ink”; it uses toner. This method has been said to be able to match Pantone colors, but it is not as accurate as we would like, which does not make it ideal for corporate identities.
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