Look! A Flexo Pantone Guide

By Jack Kenny | July 19, 2005

For the first time, a detailed guide has been printed to help flexographers match popular Pantone colors.

FTS is the publisher of the book, which was printed at its facility in Charlotte, under license from Pantone Inc., Carlstadt, NJ.

It contains printed examples of 48 popular Pantone colors executed on a flexographic press. The colors — all using water based inks — were selected based on recommendations from ink companies and Pantone's experience.

The concept for the book came from Art Fields, founder and program director of FTS. "The idea came basically from my aggravation in production — having to match colors picked by a customer with a Pantone book that our press can't hit." He approached Pantone with the idea about seven months ago, and discussions ensued immediately. Several supplier companies were approached to sign on to the project, and testing and preparation took several months. Printing began in June.

"We have to match Pantone colors with different inks," says Fields. "That has to be the most difficult challenge." According to FTS Marketing Director Chris Harper, Akzo Nobel Inks and Environmental Inks & Coatings worked closely with Fields and his chief instructor, Scott Gilliam, to develop the samples in the book. "Both ink companies will have the ink formulas for these colors," Harper says.

'A beautiful book'
Each color in the guide will be represented twice — on gloss coated stock and on matte coated stock (which many converters refer to as uncoated). Furthermore, each sample will be coated with two varnishes, one UV cured and the other a water based overprint varnish. Each color will be printed as a solid, in various screens up to 200 lines per inch, as a bar code, and with several different type sizes.

"I had been interested in doing a book on liquid ink for years," says Mike Garin, VP of Pantone. "When Art called me with the idea, I told him I was interested because it had been a dream of mine, too. So I hopped on a plane to see what FTS was all about."

Garin, a 40-year veteran of Pantone, predicts success for the flexo guide. "I think we'll get a lot of calls about it," he says. "There's a good group of people and companies behind it. We're going to make it a beautiful book."

Pantone VP Mike Garin, left, reviews the print job with Art Fields, FTS program director.

Pantone produced a book for flexographers many years ago. "It was in the 1970s," Garin recalls. "We produced a book simulating the results of flexographic printing — water-borne ink systems on corrugated stock — but it was done on letterpress." Since then, no flexo color guidebook has been published, either by Pantone or with its stamp of approval.

According to FTS, the guide contains 11 base formulation colors, 21 centerline colors, and 16 blends, including browns and grays, all from Pantone's full spectrum guides. (Centerline colors are those colors that are darkened or lightened with slight ink formula changes.) The inks used in printing colors in this guide were manufactured to simulate the coated portion of the Pantone formula guide printer edition, and the same inks and printing conditions were used as a follow-through in printing the matte coated portion of this guide. In addition, each color was printed with a readable bar code so designers can avoid specifying colors that are not scanner friendly. All steps of design and production were supervised by representatives of Pantone Inc.

Fields and Harper say that the guide:

- Provides benefits of matching flexo color created inks or pigments on flexo pressure sensitive stocks.
- Provides buyers of flexo printing a guide of matching Pantone colors created using flexographic printing inks.
- Provides flexo printers a means of narrowing customer choices to the most popular flexo colors — making color matching more efficient at press side.
- Allows comparison of varnishes, so that there are no disappointments and wasted time at press side.
- Provides customers the look of a color in a solid and screened form, on label stocks being used every day.
- Shows what colors can be bar coded with a high level of confidence.
- Reduces downtime caused by color matching of substrates and inks not used in flexo — or colors that aren't readily available in flexo.

Industry contributors
Several well known industry supplier companies joined FTS in production of the guide. Their names, and the products involved in production of the guide, are as follows:

- Anilox rolls: Harper Corporation of America, Platinum 1.4 BCM / 1000 LPI and Platinum 1.9 BCM / 800 LPI
- Dies & hot stamp: American Die Technology
- Guide design: FTS and Trinity Graphics USA
- Inks: Akzo Nobel, Hydrokett 3000; Environmental Inks & Coatings, Pro Plus
- Plates: Trinity Graphics USA, .067 photopolymer
- Press: Mark Andy 2200, 10" 8-color
- Substrates: Raflatac, coated stock 60# Kromekote Extra Gloss RP54; matte coated stock 60# Matte Laser RP54
- OPV & UV varnish: Akzo Nobel & Environmental Inks & Coatings
- Plate mounting tape: Lohmann DuploFLEX 4.4 15-mil medium firm foam.

The FTS Flexographic Color Application Guide in Popular PANTONE® Colors is available from the Flexographic Trade School, as well as from many of the suppliers who were involved in the project. A portion of the proceeds from each sale will go to FTS, which is a press operator training school as well as a research center for more than 140 member companies, both converters and suppliers, seeking to advance flexography's competitiveness in package printing.

For more information, call FTS at 704-504-5008. The e-mail address is fts@aol.com. The web address is www.WeAreFlexo.com.

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