3 Steps to Achieve Accurate Color Across Presses

Ensuring consistent and accurate color in a multi-press multi-facility environment presents a host of challenges that many printers struggle to deal with on a daily basis. Most of these challenges fall into the following four categories:

Inability to Share Data
If there is not a cohesive system and process in place to share customer specified color tolerances and values, it is virtually impossible to achieve accurate and consistent color across multiple presses and facilities. Without shared data, individual print facilities cannot:

  • Accurately approve or reject ink draw-downs based on customer specified color values
  • Consistently meet customer color requirements

Multiple Ink Vendors
When ink is formulated by different vendors in different locations, it almost always results in varying colors that do not match perfectly and sometimes results in colors that do not match at all. Additionally, when ink draw-downs are done on varying substrates (many times an alternate to the substrate to be used in the final job) printers can experience a wide variance in the printed result.

Increased Customer Awareness
The evolution of customer color awareness and subsequent demands regarding accurate printing of their brand colors has led to another challenge that begs for a swift and thorough solution. Because brand owners and their buyers of packaging are demanding highly accurate and distinctive colors to enhance brand recognition, printers are forced to consistently provide a level of color accuracy previously unnecessary. In addition to the demand for accuracy, many customers now also require quantitative and qualitative reporting to both prove and ensure that printers are within their documented specifications.

Excess Ink Inventory
Often time’s printers will have ink formulated for new customer jobs without realizing they may already have ink in inventory that meets customer color requirements. This is primarily because they are unaware of, and have no way to check, the color properties of the specific inks they have in their inventory. Without the tools necessary to analyze, track, and account for their ink supply, most printing companies are unable to fully utilize the various inks they have formulated. This is quite an expensive predicament given the cost to formulate, inventory and store, and ultimately dispose of the ink.

What can print companies do to overcome these challenges?

Step 1
Implement a process that allows for the ability to share data by centrally storing the color values used to formulate ink and make the information accessible to all presses and facilities. The centrally stored color values will serve as the reference for determining whether the formulated ink is correct and within customer specified tolerances for all presses in all locations. It establishes a quantitative verification process for accepting inks from vendors. Using a spectrophotometer, printers in two different facilities will be able to measure ink draw- downs from multiple vendors and then qualify and quantify whether the ink is within customer specified tolerances by comparing against the centrally stored and accessible reference color values.

Step 2
Use the centrally stored color values to check the color values of the inks already in inventory. If printers are able to confirm that they have an ink in inventory that is within customer specified tolerances, they can avoid both the high cost of formulating new ink and also leaving previously formulated ink in inventory. In addition to checking and confirming specific color values, printers can also search colors in inventory by DeltaE. This search capability is invaluable as it will allow printers to maintain customer specified requirements yet enable use of inks in inventory that may have a low dE to the customer specified reference color.

Step 3
Use quantitative and qualitative reporting to demonstrate to customers that the printed results are in fact within specified tolerances across all facilities and locations.

This multi-step process can easily be achieved with a networked server based color quality assurance software. It is the most suitable way for print companies to centrally store, access, manage, and analyze colors and inks. And consequently the most suitable way to achieve accurate and consistent color in a multi-press multi-facility environment.