Kwirkee is Quirky

Blue Sky’s Green?

Posted in Articles by kwirkee on January 23, 2009

A Note About Colour

 

A few months ago a friend was telling me that he had submitted an advert to a magazine and to his horror his lovely bright blue background printed in a positively edible mint green. Of course, it’s always the printer that gets blamed, but in fact it’s easy to make fundamental mistakes about colour that lead to unexpected outcomes.

 

Many people think that colour is a fixed thing. Black’s black. Blue is blue. Orange is orange. Right? Wrong! When it comes to screen and print, colour is a fluid, ever-changing thing, and changing how you think about colour may save your advert in the future.

 

1) What’s on your screen is not what prints

 

Your screen displays colour in RGB (red, green and blue) and your eyes perceive the mix as full colour. Printed items use ink, which is absorbed by the paper, to create colour. In addition, everyone’s screens are calibrated slightly differently, so my screen, your screen, and everyone else’s screen will look different.

 

2) Your inkjet printer doesn’t get it right either

 

Although your inkjet printer might be closer, it also won’t give you an accurate proof of what will be printed on a professional press.

 

3) There are two types of colour printing, and they don’t look the same

 

Spot Colours

Most people choose to print their stationery (letterheads and compliment slips) in two spot colours, due to cost. One printing plate is used for each colour. The standard reference guide for choosing spot colours is the Pantone system. Each spot colour is made up by the printer according to a specific recipe, so they always look identical. Pantone produces guides to help you choose your colours. You can also use tints of the two colours you choose – so if you have black as one of your colours you can also have grey which will be for example 50% black.

 

Process / Full Colour (CMYK)

If more than two colours are required, for example when printing colour photographs, CMYK process printing is used. This involves using four printing plates, one for each of the four colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black. These colours combine to form any colours (well, not fluorescent or metallic ones, but most colours.) Many printers print business cards in CMYK, because they can put many on a sheet and cut them down, and this works out cheaper than washing down a press just to print a few business cards in spot colours.

 

The problem is, you cannot get an accurate translation between spot and process colours. There are Pantone guides that show you the nearest thing, and some of them are close, but some spot colours – for example bright orange – are impossible to replicate in CMYK. In fact, spot colours are generally brighter than their CMYK counterparts. If your corporate colours are critical, you can print your logo in spot colour together with CMYK, using a 5 colour press. However, most people choose not to go to that expense.

 

If you are fussy about colour, you should ask your designer or printer to show you the solid to process guide so you know how your spot and process colour jobs will differ.

 

4) Colour looks different depending on what it’s printed on.

 

Different types of paper absorb different amounts of ink. Colours printed on coated stock, like a business card, tend to look brighter than colours printed on uncoated paper, like a letterhead. (You have to use uncoated paper for a letterhead, otherwise you cannot write on it.)

 

5) So how can I make sure my sky prints blue?

 

For spot colours, consult a Pantone Guide. Your designer or printer should have one. Full colour is a little trickier, but the most economical solutions is to get a proof from a commercial digital printer. This will not be exact either, but it’s probably the closest thing.

 

Due to the different process, inks, paper and so on, it is not possible to get an exactly matching set – for example, your logo appearing on your website will not look the same as your letterhead.

 

But if you know about the usual pitfalls, it’ll help you keep everything as close as possible and avoid unexpected colour.

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Why Blog?

Posted in Musings by kwirkee on January 21, 2009

I finally dragged myself (kicking and screaming, it must be admitted) into this century and started a blog. My cunning plan is to fill it with all manner of goodies (including bits from my portfolio) but clearly that would be optimistic to the point of foolishness. At the very least, I might manage to update it more than my poor forgotten website. Which, might I add, is a real case of the guy who fixes shoes but whose kids are shoeless. Since I spend all my time designing branding for everyone else, clearly anything I do for myself has to be simply spectacular, or not at all. Which is the reason for my now very simple wordpress blog.