Colour is the heart of brand identity. From start-ups to multinationals, finding the ideal colour and replicating it faithfully across product ranges, SKUs and materials can give brand owners a few headaches.
Used well, colour is a powerful marketing tool, far beyond the brain’s processing of light. Colour distinguishes a brand from a distance, and at-a-glance, becoming inextricably linked with the business itself.
In categories such as personal care products or food and beverages, this is most clearly associated with packaging and labels. Great examples include Coca Cola’s iconic red, the violet we associate with Cadbury and the vivid orange of Fanta labelling – even in periphery vision, we know the brand at a glance and what to expect from the product.
When it comes to taking this brand iconography and translating it accurately to packaging and labels, it’s very common for brands and their packaging and label suppliers to use spot colours; inks that have been specifically formulated to deliver an exact shade.
In the past, it has been difficult for printers to achieve perfect colour matches using CMYK inks and technology limitations, which has made spot colours an effective approach to brand colour management and consistency. However, there is a growing case for Extended Colour Gamut (ECG) printing. Also known as Full Colour Palette (FCP) printing, the technique combines up to seven standard ink colours (CMYK/OGV) on-press, instead of spot inks, to create a colour gamut for the brand to use to achieve their desired colours.
So why would brands and their packaging and label printers look to ECG printing instead of spot colours?
The technology behind ECG printing now means that almost every colour can be created with fixed palette inks. Currently, around 90% of Pantone colours can be achieved, which dramatically reduces the need for spot colours.
There are advanced technologies available today that can replicate complex spot colours and ‘translate’ them into a CMYK/OVG recipe. At Creation, our team uses GMG and Esko colour management and proofing software to ensure every label and packaging unit is perfectly on-brand every time, while making effective use of ink resources.
One of the biggest advantages to ECG printing is in terms of speed. Without the need for brand-specific spot colours, inks do not need to be changed between jobs meaning less cleaning and downtime for the operator. Over time, this greater efficiency and reduced changeover time for operators enables printers to handle more jobs, increase throughput and boost that all-important capacity.
Alongside boosting uptime by eliminating ink changes, press speed can be increased with thinner ink film, as well as creating the option to gang jobs together once the restriction of spot colours is removed.
We may think that bespoke inks are the optimal choice for colour consistency – but printing with the extended gamut can provide even tighter deviation control for printers and converters.
With a high-performance and experienced colour management partner, such as Creation, repeatability is made simple as colour ratios are ‘locked in’ to the system, which means the result looks equally spectacular on every print run. With an origination expert on-hand, this also means that colours are precisely replicated across substrates, supporting brand narrative and the perception of quality.
Reducing the need for bespoke spot colour inks can help to create a ‘greener’ print supply chain as there is no need to formulate, ship and store individual inks, as well as creating plate separations. Spot colours are produced for one specific need, which means additional energy and material use, storage, handling and logistics above what is required with ECG printing.
By instead using an extended colour gamut to deliver, printers can shore up their sustainability and carbon output, which of course is also a valuable benefit to their brand owner customers.
One of the most crucial benefits of fixed colour palette printing is the dramatic reduction in inventory, which can quickly prove a challenge for print houses. Spot colour inks need to be handled, stored and tracked individually despite their very specific uses. Printers – and their brand customers – that rely on spot colours, can soon find inventory taking up excessive space.
Instead, ECG printing makes it simpler to control and monitor inventory by limiting the number of unique inks required to accomplish jobs. For printers where space is more limited, cutting back ink storage requirements is essential to keeping a safe and productive supply chain, as well as keeping costs down.
Extended colour gamut printing represents a more effective use of resources without compromising quality, value or brand identity. With a dedicated prepress partner in your corner, printers can access the advantages of extended gamut printing and create a more effective press room in the process.
Make Creation Reprographics your go-to prepress partner and take advantage of our experienced team of packaging pros that help to turn ‘good on-screen’ to ‘outstanding on-shelf’. With unmatched expertise in inks, equipment and origination, Creation can support printers of every size and help to deliver the print excellence demanded from today’s fast-paced market.
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