Printing in Color

Picture a designer spending hours translating evocative colors, drawn from her or his research and surroundings, into a combination that works for a client’s brand. This fantastic journey often begins with photos, a color swatch book and a computer monitor, and can include on-site visits, use of the company’s products and research into customer perceptions.

Assembling colors in pairs and trios to form a cohesive color palette, the quest for the right combination is an adventure that can take many days. Discordant colors and groups are eliminated and subtle corrections are made to concordant ones. Finally, the designer releases the best ideas through the gates of the inkjet printer onto real paper and…

They look awful. The colors are dull – not what they were on the monitor. They feel dry. They don’t represent the brand as well in print as they did on screen. But hope – and work – is not lost.

While our eyes are capable of detecting trillions of individual colors, our technology only provides three common ways to represent these colors. Computer monitors and TV screens can show us millions of colors by breaking them down into 256 shades of red, green and blue (RGB). Systems like the Pantone Matching System (PMS) provide a range of printed colors that cannot be reproduced in other ways. Finally, basic printed materials are limited by the number of inks used.

Most office printers combine the colors cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) to create a basic range of hues. Others use 6-10 shades of these colors to print photos that are richer and truer to the scene or event captured with the camera. And some combine inks with specially coated papers to build rich colors that rival a professional press.

Professional presses rely on CMYK printing as well, but they can also add spot colors or print exclusively in spot colors, mixed to order using a system like PMS. In this way, a professional printer can create pieces that are consistently true to the brand.

So, is there a place for that basic office printer? Of course there is. Assessing a layout’s composition or printing internal memos are both good uses. When your brand has an external face, though, consistency is paramount, and professional printing is the best way to achieve consistency. This is the goal of the marketing team, and with the help of a good printing house, the designer’s journey is complete.

Read part 1 of blog here!

Read part 2 of blog here!

Read part 4 of blog here!