We always stress the importance of consistency in brand application, and an important part of this is constant correct colour reproduction.
You would think that matching a colour such as yellow is easy, I mean yellow is yellow isn’t it? Unfortunately not, there are numerous shades of yellow from bright canary yellow to deep golden yellow, so let’s make it simple by choosing one yellow as an example to work with.

In design we choose colours using the Pantone Matching System which is the universal standard for colour reproduction, so as an example we will choose Pantone 115C which is a ‘sun’ yellow. Now we have the colour we want to print you would think that it will print like the sample chosen, except it isn’t that simple.

Firstly you need to decide if the ink is going to be printed on a coated stock or an uncoated stock. A coated stock is glossy like most magazines and an uncoated stock is like newspaper. Coated stocks are more shiny than uncoated and so inks print with a lot more vibrancy than they do on uncoated. So to compensate for this difference we may need to choose a completely different Pantone Number for printing on uncoated stock to achieve a match to coated print, in this case I would choose Pantone 114U because Pantone 115 on uncoated stock looks like an orange yellow.

This example uses the ‘spot’ colour printing technique; that is to say a Pantone colour that is mixed by the printer to the recipe as per the Pantone system, this is the most accurate colour reproduction, but of course human error in mixing can still occur.
And it is the skill of the printer that really comes into play on 4 colour reproduction (CMYK). Again we designers have to choose a different mix of CMYK colours to create a yellow that matches the spot colour.
4 colour reproduction is the most common form of printing; virtually all publications that have photographs are printed this way. All the colours you see are created by the mixing of fine dots of the inks Cyan; Magenta; Yellow and Black, and this is where so many factors come into play in creating the right colour.

As mentioned earlier, there is the type of stock, but now an important feature of the stock will make a big difference in the final colour outcome, that feature is absorbency. On coated stocks the ink sits on top and dries, but with uncoated the dots of ink are sucked into the paper and bleed out. This bleeding out of the ink dots is called ‘dot gain’ and must be compensated for so that the colours do not darken and muddy too much. Different uncoated stocks and different printing techniques require different levels of compensation for dot gain, a newspaper for example is very absorbent compared to other uncoated stocks.

Other factors that will create different colour variations are the volume of ink; pressure being applied on the press; dot size (screen ruling); screen type and print type (offset sheet feed; web offset or digital).
Then there is the need to select the correct colours for other applications such as vinyl and paint for signage, cottons for embroidery and RGB colours for web and on screen representation.

So yes, getting colour right is a minefield, but at Jack in the box we can print manage the job to ensure the colour you expect is the colour you will get.