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Important Information About Print Output & Color Matching


Your colors are important to us! Please read this important
information before preparing your files for production to
ensure the best possible results.


Printing of Colors compared to Screen/Monitor Colors

Unfortunately, even today's best LED/LCD flat panel monitors do an inaccurate job of representing colors as they may actually end up appearing in the physical, printed world. Computer screens, by design, are capable of displaying a much wider range of colors (color gamut) than can possibly be printed with inks or dyes. Because of this reality, please do not rely on your computer monitor as a final reference for colors that will be printed.

Describing and Defining Color

Some of the most common color matching issues are rooted in individual perceptions of color and can be easily solved with good tools and communication.

To ensure everyone is working on the same page, colors should always be described and defined in your files using print industry standard CMYK and/or Pantone spot color number values. Verbal descriptions of color like "blue," "red," "navy," etc. are far too general and open for individual interpretation. A color that looks "red" to one person may look distinctly "orange" to another, and so on!

One way to know that the "red" we're going to print is the "red" you want is to use a color matching book that will provide you a printed reference of the color as well as an easy way to communicate that information to us. Even better, getting physical printed proofs of your project is the surest way to see absolutely how your colors are going to look.

Critical Solid/Spot Color Matching

We define a "Critical Color" as any specific solid/spot color that needs to match a pre-existing/predefined color. To achieve the best and fastest results, critical colors should be defined as Pantone Solid Coated colors in your print files.

Please keep in mind that not all Pantone Solid colors can be perfectly reproduced/simulated with the CMYK printing process. For that reason, we recommend using the Pantone Color Bridge Coated book described below because it shows both the 'true' Pantone color and the CMYK simulation printed next to each other. The color gamut our printers are capable of producing is much wider than the standard "offset" CMYK color gamut, so for many colors we can still provide excellent matches to the original Pantone Solid color, even if it is outside of the normal CMYK color range.

These types of color realities are another good reason to make the investment in physical printed proofs to be absolutely sure your files output as expected.

CMYK Color Matching

Our printing presses and Raster Image Processors (RIP) are regularly calibrated to industry standards and will accurately reproduce any CMYK image or solid CMYK color value. Even so, working only in CMYK values for solid/spot colors can prove difficult in terms of communicating about color matching. i.e. 100% magenta + 100% yellow = "scarlet" to some people, "red," or "orange" to others, and so on.

The Pantone company does publish books that show printed references of various CMYK color values, which can be very helpful in understanding how colors will print. Those books can be viewed here: http://www.pantone.com/graphics/process-color.

Without the use of a printed reference chart or book, investing in physical printed proofs is the best way to ensure that all of your colors will reproduce as desired.

What If I Don't Have Access To A Pantone Book?

If you are planning on printing any kind of materials – brochures, banners, displays, etc. – we highly recommend investing in an appropriate Pantone Matching System book or set of books. This will give you a key tool needed to communicate about 'spot' colors with any print provider.

The Pantone company sells these books individually and in sets designed for various printing processes. Since large and grand format printing machinery typically operates in the CMYK color space, the most useful Pantone book to own for working with Beautiful Displays is the Pantone Color Bridge Coated book. This book shows you the true Pantone spot ink color printed side by side with what that color can be expected to look like when simulated with a CMYK process. This book can be viewed here: http://www.pantone.com/color-bridge-coated.

Alternatively, you can also send us a physical printed reference – a brochure, poster, or any other printed item – of the color(s) you would like us to match. This gives us an exact example of what you are looking for and will allow us to pinpoint a match much more easily.

If it is not possible to obtain a Pantone book or use another printed reference, we highly recommend investing in physical printed proofs to ensure your satisfaction with any critical colors.

Matching to Previous Projects

If your current project needs to be color matched with a previous job, please let us know in advance. Depending on the matching requirements and time elapsed, we may require the previous graphic(s) be sent in for review and matching.

Color Matching in Photographs

Our printing presses and Raster Image Processors (RIP) are regularly calibrated to industry standards and will accurately reproduce any properly prepared CMYK image. Photographic images that are purchased from professional stock photography sources are typically already adjusted and optimized to print their best. Amateur or semi-professional images should be evaluated and adjusted by a knowledgeable professional to achieve the best results.

Color Matching in Gradations

In general, color gradations will reproduce reliably and accurately. Please do keep in mind that if you create a gradation, while we can ensure a match of the solid color(s) used in the gradation, the colors that will be produced throughout the gradation will not have a color reference value and can sometimes be unpredictable. The best way to ensure satisfaction with any special/critical gradations is to obtain a physical printed proof.

File Formats for Color Matching

For our technicians to achieve accurate spot color matching, layered files must be submitted that allow us to control the spot color areas. Adobe Illustrator files (.ai or .eps) or native Photoshop (.psd) layered files work well for this process. Be sure to specify your desired Pantone Matching System (PMS) numbers, referenced CMYK values, or provide printed samples for any critical spot color matches.

Proofing and Types of Proofs

Electronic Proofs:

Electronic/on-screen jpeg or PDF proofs are intended for verification of content and layout. We create and send these proofs for every graphic job to ensure we're printing the correct file(s) with the correct content and layout. Because of the variances and inaccuracies across different computer monitors, please do not rely on electronic proofs as a reference for color. If a color reference is required, physical proofs can be ordered at an additional charge. Please keep in mind that physical proofing may add to production time by two to five working days.

Physical Proofing Options:

A) Full Layout Reduction ($25 plus shipping) - This proof shows the entire layout and general color output at a reduced size

B) Actual Size Swatch ($25 plus shipping) - This proof shows a 12" x 12" swatch of the file printed at actual size and is good for judging the resolution of imbedded imagery or other critical design elements.

C) Critical Color Matching ($50 per matched color plus shipping) - This proof is used for critical spot color matching situations. Multiple blocks of color are printed approximating your desired color. You then pick which block best satisfies your matching requirements and we apply that color value to your final output.

Who Is Responsible for My Files and My Colors?

We take our responsibility to you and your project very seriously! While we will always take responsibility for the quality of our people, systems and products, the ultimate responsibility for the quality of your layout files and for communicating your color needs and print expectations rests with you. Let us know what you need and we'll work our tails off to make it happen!

We analyze every layout file for technical issues and color requirements, but our ability to remain competitive on all of the printing we do relies on our clients providing us with "print-ready" files that meet our specifications. Yet even a good, print-ready file isn't able to communicate to us what the most critical elements, colors, and characteristics of your layout are. It can't tell us if the boss fired the last person in your job because the corporate 'blue' came out looking 'purple', or if the low-resolution image embedded in the layout really is ok to print. Good communication helps us make every job we do exceed your expectations!

What If Something Does Go Wrong?

We always strive to produce the highest quality displays and graphics possible, but in the rare instance when something does come out wrong, the first thing we do is work to solve the issue and make it right! Once we gain an understanding of the problem and have a solution, we can make a more objective assessment of how the issue occurred and determine a fair remedy.


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