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Processing Color


A few weeks back our color dude posted some great tidbits regarding ‘color’ and gave some good tips on being able to hit the end-user’s desired color. One tidbit that Quinten touched on briefly was supplied samples. This made me think about a few of my favorite sample-matching situations and how simple communication plays a role in success or failure. For sake of reading, here are my two favorites.

Legal pad yellow
Client calls and says I am doing a job for a law firm and wants the background of their signs to look like legal pad yellow and were told ‘no problem-we can do it.’ Optima’s customer gave their designer the task of designing the graphics and ‘matching’ legal pad yellow. He pulled out a pad of legal pad paper and eyeballed up the color, printed a test, felt it matched and sent it to the client. Long story short, the law firm had legal pads as well that were printed by a different company (Office Depot vs. Staples or something like that) therefore the match was deemed sucky. The legal dude then took one piece of paper, ripped it in half, kept half, gave the designer half, and said match this. Cutting to the chase – we were sent half of that sheet and used that piece of paper to match, print, and satisfy the end client. The key here is something as common as legal pads can shift in color and even though all thought it was universal, the best item to match to was what the law firm knew as there legal pad. PMS or sample aside – we needed the client’s accepted color example and only then could Optima or it’s customer succeed.

AuthorKermit the Frog Green
A number of Optima’s customers have inkjet printers themselves – different manufacturers, ink delivery systems…yada yada yada. A client called me to ask why we were struggling to hit PMS XXX, affectionately known as Kermit the Frog Green. I dug into it with our AR and she was perplexed, pulled out the second round of proofs and took me back to color management. Under the color controlled lighting, she showed me our first two proofs and approximately 6”x6” squares we sent as well and I thought it was spot on (I am no color dude, but I thought it looked good). I called the client and explained what I saw and he asks if we have an outdated book or incorrect charts. We did a third round of proofs and they are still wrong. Then someone in the equation stops and asks if there are any other graphics in this booth – answer was yes – we had printed some entry signs. They are all done and the client approved at the preview. We collectively realized we were not color-matching to PMS Kermit, we were matching to those entry signs as that is what the client had viewed and deemed as the correct green. Fast forward, our client sent a sample of their interpretation of PMS Kermit and we matched that. The end result did not match the PMS book, but it did satisfy the client.

The observation I have made over the years is, what are we actually matching to – a formula or a physical item? If a physical item, it may cause some heartburn to get it and ship it or provide it to your in-house team, but we all will satisfy the end-user when the color team can see that physical piece.

PS – I left out the example of sky blue. We have probably all lived that nightmare before.

Dave S. Brown
VP of Sales
Optima Graphics
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