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What is Color and How Do We Control it in Package Printing?

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Have you ever stopped to wonder, what is color? It’s an abstract question, and one that Sir Isaac Newton studied in the 17th century when he discovered sunlight was actually a mixture of colors. He determined this after observing that colors appear from light passing through a prism. As a result, we know color is a product of energy.

Printing colors accurately is one of the biggest challenges in the printing world. There are two main processes for reproducing color in print: spot color and 4 color process. Each has its own advantages and imperfections.

Colors are the most consistent when using the spot color printing technique. This is because the individual spot color is assigned a unique print station on the press and it can be monitored and controlled separately from any other colors being printed. Clients can specify individual spot colors by choosing them from the Pantone Matching System (PMS book). The Pantone guide provides an accurate method for the selection, specification, communication and reproduction of colors.

Spot Color Printing

·         More accurate colors ·         Limited range of color options
·         More economical for simple jobs requiring one to three colors ·         Expensive for print jobs with many colors
·         Brighter, more vibrant results ·         Difficult to replicate on digital devices
·         Allows special types of colors that CMYK can’t produce such as metallic or fluorescent ·         Can’t reproduce color photos

The spot color process is normally used for elements of a design which require large areas of solid color or for key elements like brand logos and item flavor designations.

The other printing process, 4 color process (4CP) offers a much wider range of color variation and is great for reproducing full-color images such as photographs. Almost every color imaginable can be built out of a blend of four colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. With Keyline (K) representing black, these four colors are known as CMYK. For example, this is how your typical home or office printer reproduces color.

With four color printing using the CMYK process, artwork is separated into the four colors using one printing plate per color. A procedure called halftoning (also known as screening) allows for less than full color saturation, enabling the blending of all the different hues of color (reds, greens, blues, oranges, etc.)

4 Color Process Printing (4CP)

·         A wider range of colors can be reproduced ·         Colors created can vary from run to run and from printer to printer
·         Beautiful photographic images can be printed ·         Can’t reproduce every color
·         Lower cost for many print jobs ·         Alignment can be difficult

These two printing processes can be used on the same job, as long as the printer has the capacity to print more than 4 colors at one time. Many of today’s modern printing facilities use 10 color stations to enable a combination of 4CP and spot color printing. Special coatings like matte or high gloss also require a station, so this is something to keep in mind when designing your packaging product.

Excel Packaging recognizes the critical importance of color to your packaging. Our facility is equipped with 10-station rotogravure printing presses so we can mix 4 Color Process with up to 6 customizable spot colors or coatings. One of the most important challenges to every printer is color accuracy and color management for repeat orders. We are committed to providing results that exceed our customers’ expectations. Our team of experts will work with you directly to assure your colors are reproduced vibrantly and accurately, every time.

We would be happy to give you more specific information on how our precision packaging design and print capabilities help to drive your brand. Please call us at 949-831-3900 to discuss your flexible packaging needs.