Achieving colour consistency across your stationery and promotional items
This section has been included to help explain the many colour issues that can crop up when trying to achieve colour consistency across your stationery and promotional items, such as:
Brochures, letterheads, business cards, signage, printed clothing, CD/DVD covers, exhibition materials etc. etc.
Spot colour is also covered in this section. A simplified explanation of the difference between spot & process colours can be seen here: SPOT COLOURS EXPLAINED
If your stationery looks as though it has been produced by mutliple suppliers, or if you are buying print for the first time and want to understand the colour basics, then please read on.
The following information relates to 'lithographic printing', (or just 'litho') which is just a fancy phrase to describe the process of printing, using inks on a standard printing press. Many short-run items these days are produced using a digital format which is a totally different process, and not to be confused with the 'litho' information below.
There are 2 main processes.
Spot Colour, and Process Colour (often described as CMYK or just Full-Colour).
Spot Colour Printing
A good analogy is buying paint in your local DIY store. A colour 'swatch' is provided whereby you make your selection and the store can supply a pre-mixed colour that's displayed on the swatch. If you were after a colour that isn't on the swatch then the store can do a special mix to achieve the colour you are seeking.
The same process is used in spot colour lithographic printing.
The operator using the 2 colour press would have to ink one unit with 281 and ink the other unit with 032. A certain amount of material would be wasted getting the inks up-to-strength before the job could be started.
Once this job has been completed the operator may then have another job requiring 2 totally different colours. The ink units would both need to be washed down, before the new inks were introduced, and then the same process would happen where the inks need to be brought up to full strength.
As you can see, this is quite labour-intensive and in fact, most of the costs involved with short-run printing goes on the press set-up time.
A standard 4 colour press would have 4 printing units, however many larger presses utilise more units, which can be used for adding a particular spot colour, or UV varnish etc.
The operator using the 4 colour press would ink the 4 units using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black.
For our purposes, let's say he has 6 different full-colour business card jobs to produce.
Once the inks are brought up to strength, each job can be passed through the press with no washdown involved, as they all use the same inks. To streamline this process even further, the guys in the repro studio would 'plan' the 6 jobs on one large sheet. This means the press operator can run all 6 jobs in one go.
This begs the question: why isn't CMYK printing cheaper than using the 2 spot colour method? The reason is the costs involved. A 4 colour press is far more expensive than a 2 colour. Also, a 4 colour press operator is a highly-skilled operative so we also have a higher salary to consider.
Ok, we've seen how both processes work, now to the nitty gritty.
The one main problem with converting spot colours to CMYK is that quite often, the CMYK version will look different to the spot colour version.
1. Is there any part of your order that you would require to be printed in CMYK?
For instance, the business card may have a large ink coverage on one side and the printer has advised that the cards would need laminating (to protect from ink-smudging) and that for cost reasons, this would need to be produced in CMYK.
If so, then I would recommend, providing the timescale is not critical, that you ask your printer to produce the cards first, and then match the spot colour work (letterheads & comp. slips) to the finished card colour.
4. My designer is producing artwork for my new stationery. Is there anything I need to ask him/her about the design that could cause a colour issue?
Will there be more than 2 colours involved? If so, will all items need printing in CMYK? If so, get prices from your print supplier before signing off the artwork, as you may decide to cut costs and have it produced in 1 or 2 colours.
Is there a colour photograph, or a large area of ink coverage?
It's worth remembering that many designers have come from a web design background and will not have the necessary knowledge when dealing with print-related issues.
If you are in any doubt with the answers receieved from your designer, then contact the print supplier and discuss it with someone who is in charge of the studio/artwork department. If they refuse to help you - change your supplier!!
Ok, we've sorted the stationery out but what about my other promotional items such as signage, printed clothing, CD/DVD covers, exhibition materials, vehicle livery, digital posters etc. etc.
It's always easier to get your stationery sorted first, as it becomes quite difficult to match to vynil that is already on a vehicle for instance.
As with the suggestions above, always supply a printed sample of the colour you need to achieve.
Due to the various other print processes involved, screen-printing, digital-printing etc. you are never going to have a 'perfect set' of stationery/promotional items, but by keeping your eye on things you can certainly get very close.
Many of the above suggestions are particularly relevant to start-up businesses who often have no experience of buying print and are consequently quite vulnerable.
Tha main three points to remember are:
If you are designing your own artwork, call your print-supplier and check with them that what you're doing will be workable. Tell them what program you will be using and remember to steer away from low-resolution graphics, especially ones sourced from the internet. The exception to this is Stock Photo sites, who generally carry photographs in different resolutions, depending on your needs. We use Fotolia and have found them ideal.
If you are employing a designer, ask him/her to explain how each job will be produced. If you cannot get a suitable answer call your print supplier for help.
If none of the above makes any sense don't worry, just call your print supplier and get the advice you need.
It could save you a lot of money and heartache in the future!
We hope the above has proved useful to you and should you have any queries that haven't been covered here, we will be only too happy to assist.
We can be contacted directly on the contact form below, or alternatively you can call us on: 01635 255 552
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Title = Achieving colour-consistency in your brand
Description = An easy-to-follow article that explains some of the pitfalls when working in colour and how to achieve that all-important colour consistency in your brand.
URL = www.castleprint.co.uk/colour_issues.html
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Castle Print & Design
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Dorset BH5 2BA
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