Why the right colour looks like the wrong colour!

19th October, 2010

As we have said on numerous occasions, following good brand guidelines and having every piece of printed matter colour match is what everyone should aim for.

How many times have you looked at your letterheads and compared them to say, your business cards only to find that the colour is totally different. Look then at your brochure and your company signage. How is it that they are all different shades of your company colour? And realistically, how different are they?

The answer is material. When you go to a DIY store and pick a paint colour from their colour charts, they will mix the paint in accordance to a colour "recipe". A measured amount of various colours will be put into a pot to produce exactly the right colour. You get it home, put it on your nice white wall, and hey presto, the colour matches. What happens then if you want to paint the same colour onto a red wall? Well, you will get a different shade unless you pile the paint on in coats to cover the red. Then you will eventually succeed in having the colour you have chosen.

Pantone colours work the same way. They are the print industry's answer to the DIY store paint swatch. So why is the printing process different? Well whilst paper can also vary in colour, the unfortunate fact is that with the printing process you can't plaster ink on the page in layers until it completely masks the paper colour. You also have to take into consideration whether the paper is matt, silk, glossy, white, off white, brilliant white, cream or any other shade of the rainbow. And then to add to the mix, the paper or card will have different absorbency qualities which will again affect the print colour.

So what can we do? Well in reality, we will never get an absolutely exact match when we are printing on different mediums and weights but we will get as close as we possibly can which more often than not won't be a million miles away from the correct colour. If you use the same paper stock for your letterheads and compliment slips, they will match. Your business cards may be slightly different but they certainly shouldn't be vastly different if the colour of card matches the paper colour.

In the past we have warned clients that this will happen and whereas most of them will understand the principle, some have insisted on an exact match which quite frankly is virtually impossible. So spare a thought for this when you are having different types of printing produced. We wont get it wrong - we will get is as right as technology will allow!

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