Ensuring color consistency and accuracy

Specification of color for packaging begins long before the job arrives at a packaging printer. And sometimes this means that it is difficult – or even impossible – to actually print the specified colors using the target substrates and printing processes.


Variation or inconsistency in brand colors on product packaging, labels and tags can result in reduced shelf appeal and lowered brand equity, which translates to unhappy clients. Yet accurately managing these colors throughout a complex global supply chain can be time consuming and costly. Errors result in excessive rework, reduced efficiencies and slower speed to market.


Designers and brand owners would, like to avoid this expensive proposition by ensuring that the final drafts of a packaging design clearly specify colors that can actually be achieved during production. This is facilitated when the brand owner, design agency and repro house are using a shared, digital database (also known as asset management). But it must go a step further in order to ensure that colors can be reproduced as expected.


There have been significant recent advances in tools, techniques and technologies for measuring, monitoring, managing, and most importantly, communicating color. By staying current with these developments, packaging converters and their brand owner clients can better assure consistent, accurate color through the entire supply chain.


The good news is that next-generation tools, techniques and technologies are available to packaging converters to streamline and simplify the process of specifying, communicating, measuring and managing color regardless of how complex or distributed the supply chain is.


Today’s approaches to color management take the emotion out of executing upon color decisions, relying on fact-based analysis and spectral data to ensure that all stakeholders are working from the same basic information and understanding, and using the same language. Colors can be objectively validated during the creation process to ensure that they are achievable using the desired print technologies and substrates.


The end result? No more surprises and a much more efficient and cost-effective production process.


In short, make sure you take care of the following aspects in your supply chain:

  1. Manage your customer’s expectations

Sometimes, due to the realities of production materials and processes, the desired Master Standard color cannot be fully achieved with the target substrate and printing process. Dependent Standards are expressly designed desired Master Standards, while taking into account the effect on color outcome of using various different substrates and printing processes. PantoneLIVE dependent standards represent an optimal result in a given application and ensure color harmony over time and across suppliers. If this level of harmony does not meet client needs, then custom colors can be created that work across a discrete set of relevant print conditions.


  1. Calibrate the input and output devices

For the most part, today’s color measurement instruments are 100% digital. In fact, there are very few analog components inside, except for the light bulbs. Although they’re more stable than their analog predecessors, their tolerances are much narrower, and they need regular calibration to stay within these tight specs.


  1. Avoid surprises in production

Good color measurement techniques are required in order to execute effectively. This means capturing spectral measurements and comparing those against the approved standards at various points throughout the production process. And the ability to capture, monitor, measure and share performance data is critical to the closed-loop nature of this workflow.


  1. Do regular process and quality control

It is not unusual for brand colors, especially those that have been in the market for some time, to be inconsistent over the product life cycle. Colors may have drifted over time; and there could be significant variation depending upon the printing technology, type of inks, substrates and region where the work is being produced. From the perspective of a consumer, whose purchase decisions are made in seconds, shifts in color can create doubt with respect to the quality or origin of the product.