Color Matching from Print Job to Print Job

Do you have a color or graphic that you print across multiple print jobs?  This could include anything from a specific color or two in your company logo, to even a certain color(s) background that appears on many of your print jobs.

Assuming your answer was ‘yes’, that begs the next question.  Have you noticed that the colors / graphics do not exactly match?  If you look carefully, you should see some variance (especially if we are talking about images printed in 4/color process).  It is nearly impossible to ‘exactly’ match images from run to run, but that doesn’t mean it can’t come really, really close.

There are several things we need to do to maximize our clients' success:

First, for each job, the paper must be the same grade, brightness, opacity, weight / thickness, and / or coating.  Satin coating will not print the same as gloss or matte (or anything else for that matter).

Second, the line screen must be exactly the same for each job.  Anything other than that and you will have to adjust your expectations for the finished products.

Third, the jobs should be printed on the same press - with the ink density setting having been ‘saved’ from previous runs.  However, running on the same equipment (or at the same print plant) can be impossible many times, both due to sizing or specifications of the job and quantity.  For instance when one job is a 5,000 quantity of flyers, and another is a 2-million piece direct mailing, you would never run that job on the same press... the small job would cost you a fortune on a web press, and vice versa.

Fourth, the other images that will be run ‘in-line’ with the colors / graphics you are attempting to match must be the same.  What does that mean?  It’s hard to explain in writing, but... When a sheet of paper comes through a press, any graphics printed in-line (either in front of or behind) with each other, affect each other as ink is applied in a linear fashion... it is not dumped on top of a sheet all at once.  For example, if the graphic you are trying to match on brochure A. prints immediately ‘after’ (on the same sheet of paper) a huge area of cyan (light blue) ink, that will affect how the cyan will print on the graphic.  If that same image on brochure B. does ‘not’ print in-line with a huge area of cyan ink... well, you get the picture.

Fifth, they need to be printed using the same technology / type of press.  You will not be able to match offset, ink-printed brochures with ones printed on digital toner-printing equipment.  Maybe you’ll get close.  Same goes for printing a brochure via sheet-fed printing for one run, then printing via web printing for another.

So what’s the bottom line?  Make sure you - and your print supplier - know exactly what the expected (color-matching) results are.  By agreeing in advance as to what is possible and anticipated, you’ll save everyone a lot of headaches and stress!

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