Most of our customers aren’t particularly picky about matching colors. As long as their logo prints close to navy blue or periwinkle, or whatever color they use, they are generally happy. However, some clients are extremely concerned about matching colors perfectly — every time their logo (or whatever the important element is) is printed it must look exactly like the last batch of prints, and the one before that, and so on. This post is for these folks.
A client came to us about a year ago with a job that another printer was unable to complete to her satisfaction. This happens to us a lot, and for various reasons, but in this case it was due to a color issue. The other printer could not get the client’s logo to print with the right pink. Frustrated, she took the project elsewhere. When she came to us, she told us what had happened. Her logo, which was a central element on all of her marketing collateral — business cards, gift cards, and labels — was not printing consistently. Sometimes the pink she wanted was too red, on other prints it was too dark or too light. She had a sample in hand that she wanted us to match. We figured out right away that this was a client who was extremely concerned about color matching.
So we spent a couple of hours working to match pieces printed on one of our digital presses with the hardcopy sample she had provided. Since her business cards and gift cards were going to be printed on the same material — she selected a smooth, bright-white cardstock — we could use the same art for those and be confident that the colors would match. The labels were a different story, however, because she had already bought the stock she wanted to use for those. Her labels were white, but more of an eggshell white. And they were glossy. Since the color and type of the material used can affect how colors print significantly, we ended up having to adjust her label art a fair amount to get the labels to print colors which adequately matched those on the cards.
OK so what’s the point of this post? It’s not that color matching requires additional time and energy. There is more. Here’s what you need to know when color is really important to you:
1. Different machines print colors differently
Sure, digital presses all use the CMYK color model, but a file will print differently from one press to the next. If color matching is important to a client and we know it, we use the same press every time we print a job for that client. This should get noted in the client file so future jobs are printed properly. Some of our clients actually ask us to use a particular machine to print their jobs when they make an order.
2. The same machine can print colors differently over time
Sad, but true. Digital presses need to be monitored and cared for properly to keep them running well. We use a process called “calibration” to make sure our presses print colors consistently. This is done on on a set schedule throughout the month, but it is also done when we print on particular stocks and also when colors don’t seem to be printing correctly. Using a test sheet and a color measuring device we can see when either the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow or Black have gotten “out of whack” (for lack of a better phrase). Calibrating our presses is usually enough to get them printing accurate colors again. Sometimes we need to revert back to the last calibration settings to get things printing right.
3. Color issues must be addressed every time a job is printed
Because of the points raised above, the process of color matching must be undertaken every time the job is printed. Even when printing on the same machine, after it has been properly calibrated, you still need to confirm that the colors are printing to the client’s satisfaction. This requires visual inspection of a hardcopy proof. If you’ve read our blog before you know we often stress the importance of seeing and approving a hardcopy. This is especially true when colors are important to you.
So when colors are really important, plan for extra design and setup time, as well as some extra time out of your schedule to perform the inspection, to help make sure the job prints right.