Collaborative Color

Whether you are a designer or print buyer, communicating color is one of the more challenging aspects of buying and specifying print.  Your decision to use color must be credible, predictable and effective.  Good color communication means having the ability to predict and communicate the appearance of color. This includes image capture like clip-art, computer monitor representation, proofing and color targets, and final output including digital and offset print.

To communicate more effectively with your print and digital suppliers, we recommend you follow these suggestions:

1. Consider the Substrate – Remember that the substrate you are printing on – for most of us that’s paper – can significantly change how ink colors are perceived when printed. The amount of brightness and whiteness plays a role in color perception, as does the texture and the amount of ink holdout (how much the ink “sits up” on the sheet).  This is particularly challenging when reprinting a project where the previous book was printed by a different vendor on different paper.

2. Be Specific – Instead of saying that you expect the colors to “pop,” be more specific. Explain that you want a brighter yellow or less red.

3. Accuracy vs. Attractiveness – Consider both the accuracy of the color and how attractive the printed piece looks. A print job can be very accurate, matching the proof or sample – but still does not show the printed subject at its best.

4. Describe the Desired Effect – Explain the desired effect to your supplier, not how to get there. When printing full-color process, if you would like the sky to be bluer, don’t say, “Add more blue.” Full-color printing works with subtractive colors – meaning that one color may be subdued to make another color more dominant.

5. Provide Samples – One way to communicate your desired color is to provide a printed sample. However, if you are providing a sample to match to the printed piece and have selected a PMS color, tell which one to use as the guide. Also, be aware that samples fade, so make sure it is what you want.

6.  Have a Talk With Your Print Provider – Maybe this should be moved to number one on this short list.  Most print providers have a wealth of information ready to share with you that can be invaluable when designing your piece for print or digital.  Having a conversation that centers on what you’re looking for in your design can help you get exactly what you were expecting.

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