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How to ensure perfect colour matching

How to ensure perfect colour matching

In view of the fact that many of the questions received by Nazdar Ink Technologies’ Stockport-based InkAnswers programme relate to colour matching, Bruce Ridge, the company’s Director of Technical Service reveals how sign and print companies can achieve perfect colour every time.

“Remember ‘The Dress’ back in 2015? What was your take – white and gold, or blue and black? The discussion divided the internet (and perhaps a few friendships!), but it was more than an online sensation: it illustrated how our perception of colour is far from consistent.

In fact, the extent that lighting affects colour matching is a frequently-asked question at Nazdar Ink Answers, a service that offers expert advice to print professionals. Lighting can have an enormous effect on both a print’s appearance and when colour matching. For example, you could achieve a good contrast in one type of lighting, only to see it being totally washed out when subjected to another type of illumination. Similarly, a print may have subtle warm tones in one setting and appear overly orange in another.

Ideally, prints should always be proofed in their exact end-use environment. After all, if a print is going to mainly be viewed in daylight, it makes little sense to proof its colours under a desk’s fluorescent lighting. However, since this isn’t always feasible, accuracy and consistency of proofing are essential throughout production. Such practices have been set in the ISO 3664 document; by adhering to both the Lighting and Environment standards it describes, you can expect to maintain all colour expectations.

Technology can also help overcome the limits of the human eye. A spectrophotometer can be used to capture and evaluate colour to provide a valuable starting point for colour matching. It is true though, that spectrophotometers can’t always take into account all factors, such as end-use lighting, and can be affected by optical brighteners in substrates and inks, making the reading less reliable.

Moreover, because of differences in substrate and/or ink composition, even colour matches under one light setting can sometimes appear dissimilar under another. Pantone’s Lighting Indicator stickers can help. Under standard D50 Lighting, the two colours appear to match, indicating that your lighting conditions are good for evaluating colour. However, when the lighting condition is changed, the difference between the colours is evident, revealing that your light is not optimum for colour matching. Whatever your end-use lighting conditions, it is important to consistently proof under these settings at each step.

Nazdar Ink Answers also advise customers to create the best proofing environment they can. Walls should be painted the ISO-standard neutral grey and non-target surfaces in the colour matching area should reflect as neutrally as possible, thus removing even subtle contaminants that can affect a print’s apparent hue. It also pays to ensure that lightbulbs, which should be replaced regularly to maintain consistently light intensity, are spreading light evenly across the area, while other light sources, brightly coloured or reflective clothing should be removed.

Maintaining strict colour matching standards and accounting for lighting’s influence can accurately manage colour throughout the print process – meaning no arguments over whether your print is white and gold, or blue and black!”

For questions on colour matching or other print-related topics, contact the Nazdar ink experts at: InkAnswers@nazdar.com

For further information on Nazdar, visit: www.nazdar.com

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