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Reality Check: What to expect when buying different print products for a campaign. – Brand Color reproduction across print substrates and technologies.

Authors:
  • Danish School of Media and Journalism, Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract and Figures

This study is a continuation of a previous study on why most Brand Manuals fail when it comes to specifying Brand Colors (Pedersen 2016). This present study seeks to examine the practical consequences of the previous study by conducting a spot check of 226 randomly chosen print products from 43 randomly chosen companies. These print products where printed on both paper, foil/film, nylon, polyester, metal, cotton and other substrates. The print products where produced in different print technologies, such as lithographic offset, flexographic print, screen print, gravure and digital print and they were produced both locally in Denmark and from print suppliers around the world. 66 % of the 226 print products where printed in CMYK while 34% where printed as spot color (one color Pantone). The 226 print products were measured directly on the printed image, where the logo or brand color was located and color differences (ΔE2000) were calculated in relation to the company's brand color specifications. Only 13.7 % (31) of these 226 print products had a color difference ≤ 3 ΔE2000 More than 50% of the 226 print products had a color difference above 6 ΔE2000 and 19% (43) had a color difference above 10 ΔE2000 Whether the relatively large color differences are due to inappropriate color specification in the Brand Manuals or if there is a general inattention in the printing companies is not to be said. However, it must be presumed that the international process standards in the ISO 12647 series haven’t played a significant role in the production of these 43 companies' 226 print products.
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Proceedings of the 45th International iarigai Conference in Warsaw, Poland, October 03–07, 2018.
Advances in Printing and Media Technology, Vol. XLV (to be published October 2018)
IARIGAI: The International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries
Reality Check: What to expect when buying different print products for a
campaign. – Brand Color reproduction across print substrates and technologies.
Michael Abildgaard Pedersen
The Danish School of Media and Journalism (former Graphic Arts Institute of Denmark)
Department of Media Production and Management, Copenhagen.
map@dmjx.dk
Short Abstract
This study is a continuation of a previous study on why most Brand Manuals fail when it comes to
specifying Brand Colors (Pedersen 2016).
This present study seeks to examine the practical consequences of the previous study by conducting a
spot check of 226 randomly chosen print products from 43 randomly chosen companies. These print
products where printed on both paper, foil/film, nylon, polyester, metal, cotton and other substrates.
The print products where produced in different print technologies, such as lithographic offset,
flexographic print, screen print, gravure and digital print and they were produced both locally in
Denmark and from print suppliers around the world.
66 % of the 226 print products where printed in CMYK while 34% where printed as spot color (one
color Pantone).
The 226 print products were measured directly on the printed image, where the logo or brand color
was located and color differencesE2000) were calculated in relation to the company's brand color
specifications.
Only 13.7 % (31) of these 226 print products had a color difference ≤ 3 ΔE2000 More than 50% of the
226 print products had a color difference above 6 ΔE2000 and 19% (43) had a color difference above 10
ΔE2000
Whether the relatively large color differences are due to inappropriate color specification in the Brand
Manuals or if there is a general inattention in the printing companies is not to be said.
However, it must be presumed that the international process standards in the ISO 12647 series haven’t
played a significant role in the production of these 43 companies' 226 print products.
Keywords: Brand Colors,Spot Colors, color match, Print Quality, uniformity, consistency, ΔE2000
1. Introduction and background
In 2016 a study showed that less than 50% of the current Brand Colors where suitable for reproduction
in CMYK print (Pedersen 2016). It also showed that none of the 156 examined Brand Manuals had
any requirements, recommendations or information about any given color deviations that might occur
while producing digital or print media (Pedersen 2016).
Thus, it would be interesting to examine what the practical consequences of this actually are.
When a Brand Owner needs to order some print products for e.g. a campaign or an event, the different
print products are most likely produced on different substrates, in different print technologies and by
different print suppliers from different countries.
Thus, one company’s campaign can include numerus of print products produced on various substrates
in many different print technologies from many suppliers.
Nevertheless, it should be possible for the company (the Brand Owner) to expect some reasonable
conformance to the company’s reference colors (Corporate Brand Colors). That’s actually the reason
why so many resources are used to produce Brand Manuals, Corporate Design Guides, Corporate
Brand Guidelines and Corporate Identity Guidelines.
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Proceedings of the 45th International iarigai Conference in Warsaw, Poland, October 03–07, 2018.
Advances in Printing and Media Technology, Vol. XLV (to be published October 2018)
IARIGAI: The International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries
Even though the aforementioned study (Pedersen 2016) showed that these Brand Manuals were
inexpediently produced when it came to specifying Brand Colors it should nevertheless be possible to
expect some reasonable conformance between the reference colors and the printed colors.
The process standards in the ISO 12647-serie sets requirements for color deviations for the separate C,
M, Y and K ink solids and some of these process standards also have informative recommendations
for separate spot color deviations, when measured on the color control bars.
However, when a company’s logo or Brand Color is printed, it’s either printed in some CMYK-
combination or it’s printed as a single spot color (typical one color Pantone).
When logos or brand colors are printed as one color, spot color, issues like color mixing and ink layer
thickness are essential.
When logos or brand colors are printed in a CMYK-combination, issues like color management, tone
value increase, mid tone spread and correction curves play an essential role. Properly more important
than the individual CIELAB values for each separate C, M, Y and K ink solid.
In any case, the printed motive that the company pays for, including the corporate colors, brand colors
and logos are all placed inside the printed image not on the color control bar. Thus, in a four-color
CMYK-print the printed motive is a result of an overprint of the four-color halftone images.
Therefore, it may be argued that it would be a good idea to measure the brand color and logo color
where it appears in the printed image – directly on the printed image where its seen by the
customer.
When measuring on the color control bar the measurements are carried out on one single ink solid and
TVI at the time, even though it’s carried out fast and automatically. This implies the risk of removing
the focus from the printed image, which are what the customer pays for and which is where the logo
and brand colors are placed and displayed – to focusing on the color control bar and the single values.
2. Research Questions, Materials and Methods
As a consequence of the above, it would be interesting to examine what the customer actually gets
when ordering different print products.
What degree of color match, uniformity and consistency can the customer expect when looking
directly at the printed image (instead of the color control bar)?
Six weeks a year from December to January, from 2015 to 2018, students have worked on a case study
where they should find a randomly chosen company, collect between 3 to 7 different print products
from that company, which have been used in a campaign or an event, use the company's design
manual to find the company's Brand Color (reference color) and finally measure the print products to
determine if there is consistency between the reference color and the printed color of the printed
products.
In this way, 226 randomly chosen print products have been collected from 43 randomly selected
companies (Brand Owners). Some of the print products have been produced in Denmark and some
have been produced in other countries around the world.
All measurements where conducted by using 11 X-rite SpectroEye spectrophotometers (with apertures
3.2 mm (SA) & 4.5 mm) all calibrated before measurements and set in accordance to ISO 12647-1
(D50, 2°, Absolute white base and no filters).
The measurements were made directly on the area of the print product where the company’s logo or
Brand Color was printed. That is, directly on the print where the company’s logo or Brand Color was
visible, not on a color bar. The measurements were made immediately after collection of the products.
All reference CIELAB values where found by first consulting the company’s Brand Manual where the
colors where specified, mostly as Pantone colors, subsequently the CIELAB values for each Pantone
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Proceedings of the 45th International iarigai Conference in Warsaw, Poland, October 03–07, 2018.
Advances in Printing and Media Technology, Vol. XLV (to be published October 2018)
IARIGAI: The International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries
Color was found by using the PANTONE COLOR MANAGER Software (version 2.1.0.249 for
Windows) that contain the official Pantone CIELAB values for each Pantone Color.
In those few cases where the Brand Color wasn’t specified as a Pantone Color but as a CMYK
combination or RGB combination, the CIELAB values where found by using Adobe Photoshop where
the color settings gradually were changed to relevant RGB and CMYK ICC-profiles using Absolute
Colorimetric Rendering Intend and subsequently the CIELAB values for the relevant Brand Color was
read out.
All calculated ΔH, ΔEab and ΔE2000 values were found by using those official Pantone CIELAB values
and the CIELAB values from the measurements.
Since it is the intention of the final print products to show the company's Brand Color including logo
colors and since all measurements have been made directly on the print (logo or Brand Color), the
ΔE2000 has been chosen to be the most relevant and fair color difference formula in this case since it
was created to display a numeric value for the specific color difference that the human eye perceives.
In the previous study (Pedersen 2016) it was suggested that the limit for an acceptable color deviation
should be 3 ΔE2000, when products where produced within the same process (print technology and
substrate). This was suggested on the basis of the fact, that
Fogra suggests that the uniform deviation tolerance for Spot Colors in offset printing should be
2.5 ΔE2000 (FOGRA 2010 pp. 10)
ISO 12647-2:2013 specify informative deviation tolerance of 3.5 ΔE2000 for the chromatic solid
process colors CMY produced in lithographic offset
ISO 12647-6:2012 specify a variation tolerance of less than 1.5 ΔE2000 for spot colors produced
in flexographic printing.
A VIGC study that showed that Belgian customers demand a maximum of 2ΔEab for quality
print jobs (VIGC 2008).
In addition, it was suggested that when products where produced on different substrates and in
different print technologies the acceptable color deviation should be 7 ΔE2000 (Pedersen 2016).
3. Results and Discussions
In the following, the 226 different print products from the 43 different companies will first be
systematized and categorized. This will be done by Product types, Substrates, Print Technologies and
type of print color systems. After this, an analysis of the color differences will be made and it will be
examined how many products that comply to the limits of 3 ΔE2000 and 7 ΔE2000.
3.1 Types of Products
When companies and organizations arrange different types of campaigns and events, it is quite normal
that many physical products are included in these campaigns and events. It is also typical that these
products are printed with the company's brand colors and logos.
Therefore, many different product types are included in this study. However, an attempt to form a
grouping has resulted in 27 categories and a residual group called "other".
In Figure 1 all product types are shown and it’s seen that the two largest groups are Bags (including
candy bags, shopping bags, fabric bags and sports bags) and “Other” which include lighters, magnets,
flags, Access cards, glass and cups.
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Proceedings of the 45th International iarigai Conference in Warsaw, Poland, October 03–07, 2018.
Advances in Printing and Media Technology, Vol. XLV (to be published October 2018)
IARIGAI: The International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries
Figure 1: The 226 print products by product types.
*The 21 other product types include magnets, flags, Access cards, lighters, glass and cups
3.2 Types of Substrates
Among the 226 products, 141 of the products (62%) was printed on coated and uncoated paper, 41 of
the products (18%) was printed on film/plastic, 4 products was printed on metal, 13 products (6%) was
printed on nylon or polyester, 13 products (5.7%) where printed on cotton and 14 products (6%) was
printed on other substrates (glass, porcelain, latex and PVC)
Figure 2: The 226 products distributed on type print substrates
*The other include PVC, porcelain, glass, latex and corrugated board
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Proceedings of the 45th International iarigai Conference in Warsaw, Poland, October 03–07, 2018.
Advances in Printing and Media Technology, Vol. XLV (to be published October 2018)
IARIGAI: The International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries
3.3 Types of Print Technologies
Most print technology categories are represented in this study. Among the 226 products, 134 of the
products (59%) was printed in Lithographic Offset (including UV offset), 21 products (9.25%) was
printed in flexo, 41 products (18%) was printed in screen printing, 8 products (3.5%) was printed in
gravure, 16 products (7%) was printed in digital inkjet and 6 products (2.6%) was printed in electro
photographic digital print.
Figure 3: The 226 print products distributed by Print Technology
3.4 Types of Color Systems
Among the 226 products, 150 of the products (66%) where printed in CMYK process colors while 76
of the products (34%) was printed as a 1-color, spot color.
Figure 4: The 226 print products distributed by print color system.
A review of the 43 company’s reference colors (the companies brand colors) showed that 11 of the
companies (25.6%) had a brand color that wasn’t achievable in CMYK-print. However, 9 of those 11
companies produced 39 of their products in CMYK.
When looking at the total number of products, 169 of the print products (75%) had a reference color
within the relevant CMYK-gamut while 57 of the print products (25%) had a reference color outside
the relevant CMYK-gamut.
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Proceedings of the 45th International iarigai Conference in Warsaw, Poland, October 03–07, 2018.
Advances in Printing and Media Technology, Vol. XLV (to be published October 2018)
IARIGAI: The International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries
3.5 Color Deviations DE2000
When examining the 226 product’s color difference E2000) in relation to the desired reference color,
it appears that less than 15% of the products can comply with the requirement for a difference 3
ΔE2000. If the acceptance limit is raised to 7 ΔE2000 only a little more than half of the products can
meet this requirement.
Figure 5: The 226 print products distributed by different limit values
Among the 226 products, only 31 of the product had a color difference 3 ΔE2000. That account for
13.7 % of all the products. 22 of those products where printed in CMYK while 9 of the products were
printed as spot color /1-color Pantone.
Among those 31 products, 21 of the products where printed in lithographic offset, 2 products were
printed in flexographic print, 2 where printed in gravure, 4 in screen printing and 2 in digital print.
Among those 31 products, 21 where printed on paper, 7 products was printed on film/plastic, 1
product where printed on metal, 1 was printed on nylon and 1 was printed on cotton.
When raising the acceptance limit to a higher ΔE2000, it will of course result in more products falling
within the acceptable limit. But where should the limit be set?
31 of the products (13.7%) had ΔE2000 ≤ 3
130 of the products (57.3%) had a ΔE2000 ≤ 7
151 of the products (67%) had a ΔE2000 ≤ 8
This means, that 42.5% of all products have a ΔE2000 above 7 which, according to the previous study,
is above acceptance (Pedersen 2016).
The average of all the 226 product’s ΔE2000 is the mean 7.3 ΔE2000 However if this is set to be an
acceptance limit, only 134 of the products (59%) can comply, although it might have been expected
that 68% of the products (155 products) should fall within this limit. The limit should be raised to 8.2
ΔE2000 for this study’s products if 68% of the products should fall within an acceptance limit.
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Proceedings of the 45th International iarigai Conference in Warsaw, Poland, October 03–07, 2018.
Advances in Printing and Media Technology, Vol. XLV (to be published October 2018)
IARIGAI: The International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries
In Figure 6 and 7 the distribution of the color differences shows that most products had a color
difference between 2 and 10 ΔE2000.
Approximately half of the products had a color difference above 6 ΔE2000 and 6 products had a ΔE2000
between 21 and 34 (these might be considered as outliers and are removed in figure 7).
In the positive end of the scale 5 products had a ΔE2000 ≤ 1.
Figure 6: The 226 print products distributed as color difference intervals. The mean is 7.3 DE2000
Figure 7: After removal of 6 outliers above DE2000 20, the remaining 220 print products distributed
as color difference intervals. The new mean is now 6.3 DE2000
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Proceedings of the 45th International iarigai Conference in Warsaw, Poland, October 03–07, 2018.
Advances in Printing and Media Technology, Vol. XLV (to be published October 2018)
IARIGAI: The International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries
3.6 Comparison of color differences across substrates, technologies and color systems
It might be interesting to see if there is a correlation between a large color difference and the used
substrate type, print technology or color system. This is shown in figure 8-10. It will of course be
difficult to compare these means because some are calculated on the basis of few data points
(products) and others are calculated based on many data points.
Figure 8: Comparison of color difference means across substrates. Distributed by number of products
Figure 9: Comparison of color difference means across technologies. Distributed by number of
products
Figure 10: Comparison of color difference means across color systems. Distributed by number of
products
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Proceedings of the 45th International iarigai Conference in Warsaw, Poland, October 03–07, 2018.
Advances in Printing and Media Technology, Vol. XLV (to be published October 2018)
IARIGAI: The International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries
3.7 Other Color Deviations
For the sake of completeness, it should briefly be mentioned which other color differences these print
products had.
Among the 226 print products only 20 of the products had a ΔEab 5 and 162 of the products had a
ΔEab ≥ 10 while the highest color difference was 67.8 ΔEab
When evaluating ΔH, 75 of the products had a ΔH ≤ 2.5 and 32 of the products had a ΔH ≥ 10, while
the highest ΔH was 46.6
4. Conclusions
Apparently this variety of color conformance is what to expect when buying different print products
for a campaign or an event.
Even though 86.3 % of the 226 products had a color deviation above 3 ΔE2000 and almost half of the
products had a color difference above 7 ΔE2000, these 226 print products have obviously been approved
and paid for and must therefore be useful to the companies (customers).
Whether the relatively large color differences are due to inappropriate color specification in the Brand
Manuals or if there is a general inattention in the printing companies is not to be said.
However, it seems that standardized color management, quality control and process standardization
haven’t played a key role in these productions. Or, put in another way, the focus has apparently not
been on the color rendering in the printed images.
There is apparently no significant correlation between a large color difference and a particular print
technology, substrate or color system.
It can of course be discussed whether it makes sense to compare print products that are manufactured
on different print substrates and in different print technologies. But for the customer, there is probably
an expectation that all their print products look alike no matter how and where they are produced.
References
FOGRA (2010), Fundamentals for the standardization of spot colours in offset printing Uwe Bertholdt Fogra
Research report no. 32.158. Fogra 2010
ISO 12647-1:2013 Graphic technology - Process control for the production of half-tone colour separations,
proof and production prints - Part 1: Parameters and measurement methods
ISO 12647-2:2013 Graphic technology - Process control for the production of half-tone colour separations,
proof and production prints - Part 2: Offset lithographic processes
ISO 12647-6:2012 Graphic technology - Process control for the production of half-tone colour separations,
proofs and production prints - Part 6: Flexographic printing
Pedersen, M. A. (2016) Why most Brand Manuals fail when it comes to defining Brand Colors and how to
determine acceptable Color Deviations for specific Brand Colors. Proceedings of the 43rd International Iarigai
Conference in Toronto 2016. Advances in Print and Media Technology.
VIGC (2008) Study on spectrophotometers reveals: instrument accuracy can be a nightmare STUDY REPORT
FOR PUBLICATION by VIGC (Vlaams Innocatiecentrum voor Grafische Communicatie, Flemish Innovation
Center for Graphic Communication), Turnhout, Belgium 2008
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
From top class Universities and governmental organizations to high-end global brands and well-known local brands, a surprising consistency of inattentiveness has been published in these companies’ prestigious Brand Manuals and Brand Guides. When it comes to providing technical guidance, defining and describing their Brand Colors, they all fail. By examining and analyzing more than 300 different Brand Colors from 156 Brand Manuals by reputable local and Global Brands including 28 of the 100 Best Global Brands (Interbrand 2015) (see Appendix) and by numerous of visits and interviews with responsible professionals from both sides throughout the years it is obvious that there is an alarming lack of communication between technical experts and design experts. 91 % of the Brand Manuals specifies their Brand Colors as either PANTONE or PANTONE C. 90.4 % of the Brand Manuals also specifies their Brand Colors with supplementary CMYK-values even though only 45.8 % of those Brand Colors are achievable by using the process colors CMYK. This will result in unpredicted color differences of up to 35 ΔEab or 8.3 ΔE2000 when some of those Brand Colors are reproduced. Nevertheless, none of the Brand Manuals has neither any remarks, comments or warnings of color deviations nor indications of acceptable color tolerances. Only 1.3 % of the Brand Manuals also define their Brand Colors with device independent CIELAB-values. It appears that when designers and Brand Owners select and specifies Brand Colors they tend to choose colors which cannot be reproduced by using CMYK process colors and therefore the Brand Color cannot be shown in e.g. magazine ads, newspaper ads, digital print and other print media. They are bound to be disappointed. This Paper will present a practical approach to specifying and communication Brand Colors and to determine acceptable color deviation for specific Brand Colors.
Fundamentals for the standardization of spot colours in offset printing Uwe Bertholdt Fogra Research report
FOGRA (2010), Fundamentals for the standardization of spot colours in offset printing Uwe Bertholdt Fogra Research report no. 32.158. Fogra 2010
Study on spectrophotometers reveals: instrument accuracy can be a nightmare STUDY REPORT FOR PUBLICATION by VIGC (Vlaams Innocatiecentrum voor Grafische Communicatie
  • Vigc
VIGC (2008) Study on spectrophotometers reveals: instrument accuracy can be a nightmare STUDY REPORT FOR PUBLICATION by VIGC (Vlaams Innocatiecentrum voor Grafische Communicatie, Flemish Innovation Center for Graphic Communication), Turnhout, Belgium 2008