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FLEXO Magazine : May 2012
Today, it is the art director who picks a specific brand color. But, what if that color cannot be matched because, for example, the sample wasn’t created on the same substrate or with the same ink as other projects? By the time it gets on press, it is too late. At the end, all everyone sees—from the brand owner to the printer to the converter—is frustration. A recent technology makes it easier to communicate print process dependent color expectations and therefore start the color management process where it should: with the designer. This new service allows the entire supply chain to work with an accurate color target—before the job goes to the press. And, all it needs is a connection to the cloud. How It works The system relies on a unique brand color specification, approved by the brand owner. It is imperative that brand own- ers define the DNA of their brand colors and push them onto the cloud, so that they can promote and communicate them to the designers and the rest of the packaging supply chain. Design agencies must know how to work with those color profiles to anticipate how their designs will be printed. The process starts with a digital version of the Pantone col- or book (PMS). Rather than purchasing a hardcopy sample book, the designer purchases a subscription to view Pantone color chips in the design application. All the designer has to do is to download the ink profiles from a web browser. These include the spot colors that address specific needs from the brand owner for packaging. More important, the spot color profiles are actual full spectral readings for each color as it was printed. And, these colors are organized by substrate and print process. With the new technology, it is possible for the designer to obtain an accurate preview of what the packaging will look like. If the designer can select the material and process, it is easy to see how it will print. Further, a designer can look at dif- ferent colors and determine which is the closest color that can be printed on a flexo press on white backed polypropylene to match the color printed in offset. The designer can see how a color will reproduce in flexible packaging, for instance. The final color can then be communicated accurately from the designer’s desk all the way to the “ink kitchen” at the printer ’s facility. All everyone has to do is connect to the cloud. So, what if a color just does not seem to match between processes and substrates? The designer has two options. First, they can look into the cloud and try to find a color profile that appears to match closer with the target. But, if the desired brand color is simply out of gamut for a given print process and substrate, they should approach the brand owner and try to compromise. The best feature of this new system is that a printer no longer has to approach the brand owner at the last moment (when a job is on the press) and say, “I cannot print this. ” At that moment, it is usually too late to react. Stopping the presses has a very negative impact on time to market and pro- duction cost. A brand color specified on the right substrate and the right printing process, which is easily shared amongst all stakeholders of the supply chain, is the answer to the problem. For the trade shop or converter, the benefits are equally significant. They can assess the achievable colors and advise the brand owner on the optimized common denominator for color matching on all kinds of substrates. In other words, the flexo shop can ask itself, “What is the color I can match with the least deviation?” Avoiding a low common denominator is the segue into the next key technology for better color consistency across printing processes: to improve the quality of flexo printing and bring color gamut of the flexo process closer to offset, gravure and digital print. Color gamut used to be a challenge for flexography. It was difficult to match colors printed on a variety of substrates by a number of print processes. On some 62 FLEXO may 2012 www.flexography.org