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FLEXO Magazine : July 2014
design to produce at the highest quality level. Consistency, repeatabili- ty and stability of the flexographic process can make this a challenge. The brand owners expect the first impression to be as good as the last and every reprint to be as good as the previous. Process images mask variation more than any element on the package, but the consumer has preconceived ideas about what certain subject matter should look like. Too much deviation from this perception can result in products that are not visually appealing to the consumer. The quality of an image begins with the quality of the photography. Images separated for flexographic print need high contrast image data available to compensate for the flattening of highlight gain, but must also maintain fine surface detail in the product. (For more details on the specific lighting techniques that can help a product photographer capture these important elements in the product pho- to, see Ed Emanus’ article “Photography for Flexographic Printing,” FLEXO® October 2011.) Once quality photography is obtained, the separation method will im- pact the colors’ stability on press. Using Gray Component Reduction (GCR) to create a stronger black channel helps reduce variation by limiting the visual impact of a process that lacks gray balance. During retouching, spending time cutting masks in Photoshop to focus color corrections on individual elements of an image can lead to more stable images on press that live up to the consumer perceptions of that particular subject matter. Using curves, channel mixing, levels and many other tools, designers can manipulate color that is optimized for the flexographic process. Taking this into consideration when assem- bling any graphic element will keep the design from traveling down a path that leads to unnecessary work. Consider the vibrant colors required for a photo of a strawberry : bright red fruit, warm brown seeds and fresh green leaves. Removing cyan f rom the fruit helps achieve a brighter red berry while main- taining the shadow detail in black. Cyan can be kept in the seeds to create rich browns, while magenta is removed from the leaves to reduce browning coloration on press. The resulting image is optimally separated for flexographic print while reducing the influence of the variables encountered throughout the print process. Color Consistency Many brands are positioned across multiple substrates, so it is vital to maintain a consistent appearance across the brand family to build loy- alty with the consumer. Once a consumer makes that initial impulsive buying decision, a consistent look and feel across the brand’s other products creates that loyalty, that moves the purchase of additional products in the line from an impulse decision to a planned decision. The ability to manage the color across substrates and package types is possible, but it is a substantial undertaking. Custom profiles for each substrate and print condition must be created, which is an expensive and time consuming undertaking. The latest methods of Near Neutral Calibration like G7 can simplify this, however, by allowing brand owners to point package designs to a set of reference print condi- tions defined by ISO 15339-2. This was not possible in years past, as flexography was viewed as a second tier printing process to offset and gravure. Now, with the advancements in imaging, plates, anilox and press technology, flexography has grown into a process capable of producing a consistent, predictable color on a plethora of substrates and package types. Given these developments, the industry has begun to position itself in a positive light as the best choice for package print to brand owners. As more designs are developed specifically for flexographic print, it is imperative that the industry is set up to meet the brand owners’ need to have a package communicate the desired marketing intent across film, paperboard and corrugated packaging in consistent color ap- pearance. This method of calibration and following references aligns the supply chain by enabling process control, defining color targets and reproduction as well as color conformance. By implementing this approach to color communication and reproduction, common graph- ic elements appear similar across various substrates and even print process. For the designer, this provides more time for developing the brand and how it communicates during the “First Moment of Truth.” Process control reduces the constant tweaking of graphics further downstream to meet the needs of a particular print process and places 32 FLEXO | JULY 2014