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FLEXO Magazine : July 2011
Color is a primary asset of the brand. It’s through the color that we, as consumers, associate with brands. Color helps us develop a bond with the product. Anyone in packaging will tell you that color is perhaps the most critical element. The brand owner and designer typically expect some bright vibrant colors, but they are very disap- pointed when they see the final results from the press. Get the logo color wrong, print with an inefficient color set on press, and you’re in trouble. When we examine the process of brand execution in pack- aging, an individual package begins its journey at the brand owner and designer and later ends up as printed material. In the initial phase, many things get defined for the package: • Shape is defined with a CAD drawing. • Copy, logos, images are provided, as are specifics on brand color and a bar code. As a package travels through the supply chain, from the brand owner to printer, most aspects of a package don’t change, except the color. The copy, barcode, images and shape remain the same, regardless of how we reproduce the printed pack. Color, however, always changes, depending on the substrate or print process. As a result, there can be a lack of predictability between the front (the designer) and the back (the printer) of the supply chain. Complexity has also increased in the past few years with advances in digital printing. Tomorrow, you may reprint a job on a digital press that was previously printed by flexo. This, of course, is even more challenging for global brands that strive to achieve consistency across different continents. Color management is important to the brand owner and designer for a number of reasons. First, if done right, you get to the stores’ shelves faster. In doing so, design and produc- tion costs are less expensive. There are fewer trial pressruns or press-side color approvals. Color management also allows everyone to explore multi-color process printing and better realize the creative brand vision. Of course, less waste of inks and substrates by getting the right color on press faster deliv- ers a greener process. Good color management upstream lets business lead- ers at creative firms better serve brand owners, by setting realistic expectations, and by facilitating competitiveness with prepress organizations. Most color critical decisions take place in prepress, or even at the printer, because they historically have been the compa- nies capable of making proofs that accurately simulate what the final printed result will look like. There has been a strong desire to move this capability upstream to the designers and brand owners. While it is the ultimate responsibility of the con- verter to get the color right, the designer has a tremendous amount of influence on how the job might end up. Of course, the printer and trade shop have different rea- sons to exercise good color management. Straightforward spot separations with less retouching time makes the process faster. With fewer press fingerprint trials, and a reduced number of reworks, jobs are less expensive. Color manage- ment delivers accurate hardcopy spot color proofing, and allows the possibility to introduce remapping of brand colors into multi-color process printing. Of course, fewer proofs and reduced courier use means a less expensive—and greener— process. There are even further benefits realized by coopera- tive efforts if the prepress/trade shop is in partnership with, or co-owned by, print operations. At the beginning of the process, we need to define brand color palettes and use them in a design environment. We may want to explore color accurate soft proofing. We also need separation tools for images and jobs, to adapt a design for a different print process or press. SPECIAL COLOR PROFILES How many colors are you going to use on press? There are tools available—prepress or preflight software that can designate the correct number based on print parameters. Unfortunately, CMYK from Adobe Illustrator is based on pure color. You want to be able to use the actual color, as it will be reproduced and swap in profiled inks. Even major brands have their own versions of cyan or magenta. Many printers, following the instructions of a brand owner, will use a specific red instead of magenta. Tools are available to allow you to make the swaps in Adobe Illustrator, based on these color profiles, rather than raw color. Extended gamut printing can reduce the need to print with spot colors and, depending on the press, make it easier to run www.flexography.org July 2011 FLEXO 37