FTA has utilized Zoom and multiple industry experts to tackle a variety of pressing topics, including color consistency and brand owner preferences. On April 29, 2020, FTA presented “Color Consistency: Achieving the Target,” and “Inside the Minds of Brand Owners: Why we Care.”
Speakers throughout both conference sessions highlighted the importance of color in successfully conveying the brand’s presence on a crowded shelf.
“Colors are who we are, and they represent brands on the shelf,” said 3M’s Michael John, session chair. “Process is important to us because many items are printed at multiple locations globally.”
Amy Jungerberg and GMG’s Rick Guebert moderated a presentation that delved into the hardware developed to capture color data and the requisite software to analyze it. Consistency and accuracy, especially throughout facilities sometimes situated throughout the world, are paramount.
“We want to get objective data not subjective data, or what we think,” explained Colorware USA’s Dan Uress. “We ultimately measure color, though, because the human eye cannot.”
Steve Cooney of StarPak, a printer with wide-web and short-run capabilities, stated that one of the most important parts of the print process is plate calibration. Converters must then record data for quality control and work with brands to improve vignettes and drop shadows.
“We physically evaluate every plate before it goes to the floor,” said Cooney.
Cooney said it’s imperative to use base specs and set tolerances, such as the Delta E of process and spot colors, and use the provided data to set graphic standards. “We want to set a performance expectation, which is what the brand owner has envisioned their product to look like going forward,” added Cooney. “This is done before anything gets to press and how the graphics will work.
This is not a subjective process, either. The process assures that the graphics perform as expected, and the subsequent data – reporting, collecting, client education, and issue resolution – features real-time access to ensure the print run is calibrated perfectly.
“We want to record color data across our workflow,” noted Cooney. “Our color quality reduces the subjectivity and allows science to guide brand integrity.”
Color consistency is present in multiple phases, including artwork. ““I can’t stress enough how important standard establishment is in the entire process. It’s really critical,” said SGS’ Scott Thompson. “We have a lot of customers inquiring about CMYK, CMYK +1 or Extended Gamut. We want to make sure we’re ensuring process builds and that we’re executing properly. It’s very important for color consistency.”
BST’s Daniel Bohn detailed the hardware side of color management. Inline spectral color measurement is a pivotal tool in a converter’s arsenal to improve print quality.
“Today, it is the industry standard to use various cameras to identify, track and – in a further step – eliminate printing defects,” stated Bohn. “The next logical step in improving print quality is inline color measurement.”
Inline spectral color measurement provides numerous advantages, said Bohn. It allows companies to identify homogeneous and non-homogenous patches, prevent false readings and numbers, and provide greater objectivity and repeatability. This helps generate less than 1 Delta E and a low false reading rate of less than 1% for brand owners.
Colorware USA’s Uress noted the importance of what the eye sees – and how slight changes can lead to big differences in print results. For example, cyan + magenta is not same as magenta + cyan, so printers must be cognizant of measuring ink changes. Other variables that are measured include:
- Delta E, or accuracy
- Ink film thickness, or density
- Dot Size, or dot gain
- Ink combinations, or overprints
- Neutrality, or gray balance
- Substrate color
- Press performance
The ultimate goal is satisfying the brand owner. In the session, “Inside the Minds of Brand Owners: Why we Care,” experts noted that color can consistency and accuracy can make or break a brand’s performance on the shelf.
“You only have a few seconds to catch a consumer’s eye, so we want our package to be the biggest, boldest, and most impactful on the shelf,” said Karen Daniels, session chair. “However, the design might be a challenge to execute.”
This session, which featured Brigitte Bisson, Dan Blackburn, Steve Smiley and Bart Wright, emphasized the importance of spectral color measurement and communication, both with brand owners and team members.
Establishing expectations upfront can avoid problems later on in the process. “Sometimes our standards are higher than what the customer expects, so you have to take the opportunity to educate the customer on process to achieve their desired result,” said Wright.
According to Smiley, standards are critical. “Don’t beat up on the printer when they aren’t provided the proper information,” he said. “Brand owners must provide critical guidance. It’s also important to have a living PQM (Print Quality Management) system that people can adhere to.”