4 keys to solid color management for packaging and label printers - Esko

4 keys to solid color management for packaging and label printers

November 03 2015

Packaging Labels

Getting colors right in packaging and labels can be challenging. The print quality is affected by a number of variables: prepress, substrates, printing process and inks.

Avoiding color corrections on press saves time and eliminates rejected jobs, but how can you get color right the first time?

There are 4 valuable keys for color management:


1. Working with spectral color data

Most color management systems are based on ‘Lab’ color data. Where the a* axis varies between green and red, and the b* axis between blue and yellow, L defines how that color appears in a specific lighting condition.

Spectral data, on the other hand, define the behavior of the color across the entire visible light spectrum. Independent of lighting, spectral data capture much more information about the color than an Lab measurement. Therefor spectral data is the only true way to characterize a color.

Packaging uses a wide variety of inks and substrates, and measurement conditions may vary widely. That is why spectral data is the most reliable basis for color communication.

Defining spectral color data with Exact spectrometer

2. Predicting ink behavior

Aside from the standard four process colors CMYK, packaging typically uses spot colors. To be able to set expectations, the behavior of these special inks needs to be predicted with a high degree of accuracy.

A spot color overprint model, based on spectral data, truthfully predicts the interaction of those spot inks with the process inks, long before the design reaches the printing press. This enables you to create accurate proofs, mockups and color separations.


3. Expanded gamut printing

Using spot colors for almost each print job, conventional printers typically spend 50% - 60% of their production time washing and setting up the press. That is a problem in a world where ever shortening print runs squeeze your profit margins.

On a digital press it is not acceptable either to stay with standard CMYK printing: the range of printable colors with CMYK is not sufficient to print many brand colors.

That is why many printers move to expanded gamut printing with a fixed ink set of five, six or seven inks. A fixed ink set matches most brand colors, and allows for a quick job turnaround, since the same inks are used in each print job.

converting spot inks to extended gamut printing

4. Connecting through a central color database

The production of packaging involves multiple actors, who all have to manage color information correctly to produce an optimal result. So, effective color communication is vital.

  • In your own printing operation, a central database containing all relevant color assets, assures that all your operators work with the latest updates.
  • To also align the entire packaging supply chain on the latest color assets of a packaging project, you can connect your packaging prepress workflow to the PantoneLIVE™ cloud. The PantoneLIVE cloud is a secured database of spectrally defined Pantone® and brand spot color references.
PantoneLIVE globe clouds

Esko Color Management

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Download your free Color Management guide to learn more about perfect color management for packaging and label printers.