When It Comes to Color, Get Critical

By Jeff Baker, posted on May 23, 2018

How many times have you had digital collateral created only to notice that your logo or another critical color was off? In the exhibit and architectural industry, color matching and color fidelity are of critical importance, but often lack the structured approach that is applied to the other, more controllable aspects of production. 

Today, monitors and various displays involved in digital production lack the color control we’ve come to expect from physical, print materials, making it more important than ever that multiple tools – from the technical to the visual – are used. It is also vital to understand the viewing conditions of your production, including the light source, CRI, temperature, light refraction, and the composition of the color material itself.

When Image 4 started out, there were really only three ways to produce a color: you could mix a pigment – this was silkscreen, painting, and offset printing ink; you could buy a pre-colored object, such as extruded or cast vinyl from 3M and Sintra boards; or you could use the chemical and light interactions of photography to blend light and dye into colors. Color was managed primarily as a visual process. Sure we used technical instruments to measure – densitometers, spectrometers, etc. – but the last steps in color matching were always visual. The entire industry counted on a trained, critical eye viewing color under controlled lighting conditions

With the advent of digital production, the numerous and varied ways to create and measure color have grown tenfold. Monitors and other displays can be calibrated, but still lack color control. We live in multiple color spaces: CMYK, RGB, HEX, plus the pigment spaces of RAL, PMS, SW, BM, etc. It’s potentially a nightmare of variability and confusion.

That’s why it’s tremendously important that our staff is trained to use a wide range of tools – PMS charts, RAL charts, even Sherwin Williams paint books, and various measuring instruments – to help create and manage the final color presentation we’re asked to create. And even with all of that, we still always perform that last matching step visually.

It’s critical that we take the time to color match to the precise light source used in the display or interior project. In the project pictured here, you can see the light source, you can see our test color patches, and you can see our color target – in this case our client’s PMS 7377 green. Because we constantly color calibrate our printers, our initial color test was extremely close, but we needed to make one correction to the printing to end up with the absolutely perfect color. When we are tasked to present a brand experience perfectly, this is the type of attention to detail it takes.

When it comes to color, get critical. We do. It’s About the Experience®


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