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FLEXO Magazine : July 2012
Technologies & Techniques Take Full Advantage of Expanded Gamut Printing! smart Designs guarantee success By Tyler Mills Expanded gamut printing in flexography hardly requires an introduction. The process has entered the growth stage of its lifecycle, and the benefits are well known to buyers and converters alike. Namely: • Fewer changeovers and less makeready downtime equate to higher levels of productivity and less waste • An unlimited color palette gives graphic artists exciting new design opportunities and print schedulers more flex- ibility when ganging jobs with common repeat lengths Given the advantages of expanded gamut printing, one might wonder why more converters and consumer product companies do not use the process. What will it take for the process to gain more widespread acceptance? That’s a question that Mark Samworth of Esko and Al Bowers of RR Donnelley both asked in their presentation for the 2009 FTA Forum entitled, “Expanded Gamut and the Tipping Point.” In it, (See FLEXO, August 2009, page 24) Samworth and Bowers discussed some of the drawbacks to the process, such as proofing—which has made tremendous strides over the past three years—and spot color accuracy. More importantly, they coupled color theory research with simple, yet effective examples, to illustrate how and why graphic artists and consumer product companies (CPCs) should change their approach to package design to take full advantage of the expanded gamut process. This article will attempt to build upon the points made by Samworth and Bowers, as well as highlight other design considerations to maximize the effectiveness of the expanded gamut printing process. FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE What often gets overlooked when discussing expanded gamut in flexography are the ramifications for the designer and the importance of forging strong partnerships with the prepress provider to overcome these challenges. Continuing the theme from the article “Printing a Rembrandt: Preparing Designers for the Realities of Flexographic Printing” in the July 2011 issue of FLEXO (page 28), the importance of collabora- tion between designers, prepress providers and printers cannot be overstated. Too often, designers will create a new art file for a package or label, have it approved by the CPC marketing team, and then send the file to the prepress provider without having any discussions about the expanded gamut process. What usu- ally follows are a large amount of printability adjustments that might have an impact on the look of the intended design. Because these changes are post-approval, the CPC must either settle for these differences or delay the timeline by reinitiat- ing the approval process. Preventing that kind of miscommuni- 7 TIPS OF THE TRADE • Graphic artists and CPCs should change their approach to package design to take full advantage of the expanded gamut process • All expanded gamut elements print as a combination of various overprinting tints • Spot colors get refined into process channels according to predefined color recipes determined by the separator • Designers should avoid flat colors in their work and focus on using more images, patterns, textures, glows, transparencies or gradients • Type smaller than 12-point generally works best as a single color build • Prepress providers use software to selectively add chroma to images by adjusting the channel output of that image • When choosing images, designers should consider bold and colorful images that can take advantage of chroma enhancement for maximum shelf impact www.flexography.org july 2012 FLeXO 39 24 FLEXO August 2009 www.flexography.org TEchnologies & TEchniques Thisarticle istaken from the presentation of the same name given at the 2009 FFTA Annual Forum by AlBowers of RR Donnelley andMarkSamworth ofEskoArtwork. There have been volumes of articles espousing the virtues of adding colors on press to cyan, magenta and yellow, suchas orange, greenand blue. There have also been many articlestalking about the business motives of brand owners as it relatesto packaging. So, let’s get pastthe obvious needfor brand owners to meet profit goals andtime to market. This article will discussavariation on the theme, andpresent aninteresting waytolook at expandedgamut. It’s the tipping point. MalcolmGladwell authored abooktitled, ‘The Tipping Point:HowLittle ThingsCan Make aBigDifference.” In it,he explainedhow new technologiesthat are adopted in certain marketsdo not grow linearly. Ittakes some time for market in- novators to test thetechnology.From there, “epidemic” growth can tip market acceptance, and everyone adapts and usesthe new technology. Itgot me tothink where current market accep- tance is for expandedgamut printing, andwhen it wouldtip. Asweall know, expandedgamut printing utilizes process inks beyond CMYK, eliminating the needfor spots. It can intensify process color, streamline operations by eliminating long makereadytimes and allowingjobsto be ganged up, and enable new graphics. By eliminating spots in decks five, six, and seven, costs are reduced. If aprinter can get benefits of additional chroma onan image, why hasn’t expandedgamut tipped?In some cases, it has. Many of the larger snack foodbrands are already printed withextendedgamut;butthis is still perhaps only 10 percent of all packaging. The remainder, 90 percent, is still printing withCMYKplusspot colors. When will we reach the tipping point?I believe three things needto happen for expandedgamut printing to reach the tip- ping point. First, we needtoimprove spot color accuracy.Sec- ond, we needtoimprove proofingfor extendedgamut. Third, and most important, we needto changethe rules, in general, about howwe assessthe totalquality ofthe package. Improve AccurAcy Take aPantone swatch andlook at spots andtheir extend- ed, process color counterparts. It is more difficult to repro- duce spot colors than images. The reasons are quite evident: Tints vary more than solid colors. Every press hasdiffer- ent gains. It’s pretty easy to understandthat the only change to asolid will be the thickness of ink on that solid. However, a tint will change not only in thickness, but also in the size of the halftone dots (print gain).Thus, if youprint a solidtint built of halftone dots and apure solid,you will findthat onthe same press, the ∆E of the solid will be muchlessthan that ofthe solidbuilt fromtints. Multi-color builds vary more than single color-builds. What’s thebest waytobuilda midtone grey with CMYK? Simple—a black ink tint. Thetoughest is aCMYbuild.I con- ducted a controlled experiment, with a random curve created expanded Gamut and the Tipping point the Rules Must Change By Mark samworth FIGure 1. twodifferentprocessimages withawidedifferencein∆e. FIGure2. selectspotcolorsfromtheimagesinFigure1.the mindshouldperceivethe colordifferenceintheseimages more readilythaninFigure1. w w w.fle xog rap hy.org A ugust 2009 FLEXO 25 TEchnologies & TEchniques from Excel.The same press variation will not only change the tint, but the color variation as well. Now, black comparedto CMYisthe most extreme, but it doesexplain why tint buildswill change from pressrun to pressrun—and within a pressrun. The brain is more sensitive to “blocks” of color than to images. Look atthe side-by-sidephotos offlowers andleaves, with very wide ∆E(Figure 1), and look at some corresponding spot colors (Figure 2). Whydothe spotslook so differently? Because thebrain does not focus on each element of aphoto, but the entire image. There are three determinants of accurate spot color: ink gamut, color management andprint consistency. Ink gamut.As it turns out, about90percent of allPantone spot colors can be reproduced within 3∆E of agood set of extendedgamut inks. Of course, there is the remaining 10 percent,but we can start off withpretty good coverage ofthe Pantone color chart. Color management.This might beconsideredheresy,but ICCprofiles are not very goodfor seven-color process colors. TheICCstandard wasdeveloped where the number of color dimensions equaledthe number of inks. That’s fine when you print upto four colors. It’s onlyN4dimensions. But what happens when youdramatically increase the number of inks?Youget an exponentiallylarger number of points. It becomes unmanage- able, so the ICCthrows away80-90 percent ofthedata, interpo- lating points when necessary.Thus, while the process maybe goodfor CMYK, it’s not very goodfor seven-color matching(N7). There is asolution. Consider a model where there are multiple four color profiles, where only the relevant points are stored. For example, one table isCMYK, another replaces cyan with orange, another replaces magentawithgreen, and afinal one replacesyellowwithblue. Withthis model,you can get about 90 percent more usable samplepointsfroma testtarget and result- ingprofiledata of comparablesizes (Figures 3 and4). Print consistency. We want to make spot color matchingbetter, butthebest color match is not necessarilybest for thepress. Inour model where you canachieve a ∆E, we canmake the print result more stable byeliminating color variation on press. Remember that tints vary more significantly than sol- ids? What if we tryto buildacolor with one solid?With about half ofthe spot colors we can force greater accuracy.How abouttwo solids? Howabout changing the rules? chAnGInG The rules What do we really know about extendedgamut? Well, it’s more economical, because if you use common col- ors onall jobs, not onlydoyou save on makeready time but, much more important, you can gangjobstogether because youare using common inks. Proofing is not perfect,but we’re getting there. Andthuswefinally arrive at the message of this article. Visu- ally, spot colors createdbyextendedgamut are not as accu- rate, but images can be muchbetter. And, thattypicallyleads toone further result: Thepackagelooksbetter! (Figure 5) FIGure3. A CMYKcolorprofile. FIGure4. Anexampleof fourcolorpossibleprofilesin whichonetableisCMYK,another replaces cyan withorange,athirdreplaces magentawithgreen, andafinal onereplaces yellow withblue. FIGure5. thepackageontheleftsimplylooks better, regardless of∆evariationfrom the tar get.