Tag Archives: Packaging

X-Rite Pantone – Color Accuracy and Consistency: A Balancing Act

When all of final production packaging comes together on the store shelf, it’s a brand’s moment of truth. Do the stand-up pouches, overwraps, and corrugated POP displays match? How close is the color to its standard?

We know you spend so much time and money designing, proofing, sampling, printing, and shipping… so where does the color go wrong? Is it an issue with accuracy, consistency, or both?


Package designs come together on the shelf. Here you see pouches, labels, cartons, and corrugated with visual inconsistencies—these are issues that can be overcome.

Today we’ll look at some of the key underlying issues in a color workflow so you can take corrective action with suppliers and get your brand color right, the first time.

1.  Substrates, printing processes and ink types all affect color.

Unique packaging helps products stand out, but the variety of printing processes, inks, and substrates required to make it happen creates a real challenge for brand owners and graphic designers to achieve consistent color. When designing layouts and approving colors, brands need to consider all of the variables that impact final color.

Many years ago, Flint Group put together a color quiz with the question: “Which swatches are printed with the same ink?”


Even though there was no attempt to match color on these substrates, you probably see two or three swatches appear close in color. The reason? Even though they were all printed with the same ink formula, they were on different substrates. It’s amazing how much the color varies.

Plastic, metal, glass, paperboard, and corrugated cardboard are vastly different substrates. Some, like paperboard and corrugated cardboard are more porous and will absorb ink, while metal will not absorb ink at all. Depending upon the amount of absorption, the substrate color will interact with the ink and change the appearance of the color. A color that is approved on a white substrate will look quite different – and probably be unachievable – when printed on brown corrugated.



Substrate isn’t the only variant in the quest for color consistency. Different printing processes also affect the printed color. Offset, flexo, gravure, letterpress, digital, and screen all use different types of inks and colorants; some are water-based, some are petroleum-based, and the curing methods and gloss levels can result in colors that vary substantially.

The key is to consider as many of the variables as possible during the design phase, and think through how they will affect final color. It’s also important to stay in close contact with your printer or packaging converter to ensure they understand, and can achieve, your expectations.

2.  Multiple packaging components can make or break the brand.

There’s more to a brand than just the package. Even if you have all the variables under control for one packaging component, the other components – such as the flexible plastic pouch, the folding carton, the printed labels, and the shelf trays – must all match when they come together at the point of sale.


This graphic shows how Pantone 3425 C will appear when printed on both white and brown cardboard. As you can see, the difference is quite noticeable. Is it OK if the green on the white cup doesn’t exactly match the green on the brown thermal cup holder? It’s a balancing act between what’s achievable and what’s acceptable.

Today we’ll look at some of the key underlying issues in a color workflow so you can take corrective action with suppliers and get your brand color right, the first time.

3.  When you’re working across multiple sites, color is even harder to manage.

Multiple print suppliers are usually required to handle large volumes of brand packaging. But even when using the same substrates, inks, and printing processes, converters in different parts of the world simply do not produce the exact same color.

If a brand owner approves a slight variation from a printer in New York, and a slight – but different – variation from the printer in Madrid, when all of those components come together at the point of sale, those slight differences may be much more apparent.

When-Color-Goes-Wrong-_-1This type of color difference can give the impression that the off-color products are damaged, old, or fake, and they will probably end up on a discount store shelf.

The only real way to ensure accurate color across multiple sites is through digital specification and evaluation – that is, using digital values for color in conjunction with physical references.

4.  Color communication can be ambiguous. And expensive.

Historically, physical standards have been the accepted way to specify and communicate brand colors. While they still play an important role in a color workflow, they can also pose potential issues for brand owners.

First, they’re subject to deterioration through age, wear and discoloration. Even if Pantone 306 is communicated as the standard, what looks like Pantone 306 in the designer’s new Pantone Guide might look different in the printer’s 10-year old version, leaving room for misinterpretation. It’s also wise to reference standards for multiple substrates, which aren’t always available or practical as physical references.

Lighting plays a role in visual evaluation. A color difference may be more obvious when viewed beside a window in the store than under fluorescent lighting in the lab.


Comparing a sample with a standard in a light booth allows you to view and approve color under consistent, known lighting conditions.

Physical standards can change. How do you know all of your designers and suppliers are using the most recent or most consistent ones?

There’s also the cost and efficiency impact of sending physical materials back and forth for review and approval, or sending stakeholders to each print shop to visually approve color on press.

5.  The Snowball Effect

Combine all of these variables and you get the dreaded “error stack.” Although each player in the supply chain, from designers to premedia to ink supplier to printer, may meet the physical standard within a specified tolerance, adding each of these small differences together can lead to bad color, and a negative brand impression at the point of sale.

What’s a brand owner to do?

One potential key to reducing inefficiencies is digital color specification, communication, and approval. Even if the color is specified in Paris, printed to the numbers in Ohio, and approved in New York, the digital version of Pantone 360 will always be the same when you use digital specifications across the workflow.

Stay tuned. Soon we’ll talk more about real life solutions to help brand owners achieve a color-consistent packaging workflow

Don’t miss X-Rite Pantone’s webinar on solving color issues in Packaging Design, Development and Production, register here

Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, VP Marketing, Highcon

Eshchar1Prior to joining Highcon, Eshchar held worldwide responsibility for the Folding Carton Segment at HP Indigo working with leading companies, analysts and brands around the world. He has a passion for new technology and innovation. He served as a law clerk in the Israel Supreme Court and holds L.L.B and M.B.A degrees both from the Hebrew University.

What will the audience gain from attending your webinar?

Hopefully they will learn how to put a twist to their product in unexpected ways, and see what potential can be reaped when matching creativity to new technologies

What is your favourite part about presenting to a live audience?

You learn something new every time. Even when giving the same presentation for the hundredth time, a live audience will always offer a fresh view on the story you thought you knew too well.

What was your inspiration to get into the industry?

The combination of passion for innovation and the desire to face new challenges. Trying to offer new capabilities or solve the markets’ difficulties combine very much of both.

Where is your favourite place in the world and why?

With the risk of being complete unoriginal – home. Besides the fact that my family’s there, the view is incredible.

Join Eshchar in the Highcon webinar to discuss ‘Technology Enabling Design – Shorter Runs, Faster to Shelf‘. Register now!


What Does Technology Have to Do With Design?

By Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, VP Marketing, Highcon

Working at Highcon has allowed me to experience, first-hand, the excitement of applying innovative digital technology to highly creative designs.

If, like me, you thought finishing was the boring, costly part at the end of the printing process, now is the time to think again. At drupa 2016, under the slogan of “Unleashing the Power of Paper”, Highcon revealed to the world the infinite added value potential that our systems offer our customers and their brand clients.

Amazing Paper Display at drupa 2016

Amazing Paper Display at drupa 2016

We showcased spectacular paper clothes, interior decorations all the way through to traditional applications like packages, greeting cards, point of sale, display and even 3D models.

Hundreds of different brands and designers are already reaping the benefit of Highcon’s digital finishing capabilities in real products – starting from packaging of products on shelves around the world, all the way to marketing campaigns of new launches.   Our customers have been able to give their clients what they need to differentiate their products, efficiently and profitably.

Highcon has developed a portfolio of solutions that enable design creativity while producing shorter runs that reach the shelf faster.

The Highcon digital cutting and creasing process brings all the benefits previously associated with digital prepress and printing workflow to the existing analogue finishing market. Digital finishing offers a solution to the key trends we have seen in the industry:

  • Short RunsCapture
  • On-demand requests
  • Supply chain complexities
  • Competition – a need for differentiation

It is getting harder to differentiate and stay relevant without doing something fundamentally different. Digital printing is a growing force in the market that helps brands successfully target segmented markets. At Highcon we offer another dimension of differentiation that also addresses the day to day headaches of a production environment.

To hear more about how Highcon customers can help you stand out on the shelf, join me for our webinar on September 13th at 3 pm UK, 10 am, New York.

If you’d like to see more of the different applications our technology enables, check out: http://www.highcon.net/applications/

If there are any particular aspects of digital cutting and creasing technology you would like to hear more about, let us know.

At the end of the webinar I will share with you details of some of our highly creative customers around the globe.

Michael Hunter, Vice President, Lean Scheduling International

Michael HunterMichael Hunter is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Lean Scheduling International and a key developer of the LSI Print Control system. Prior to joining LSI, Michael spent 20 years working in label printing, heavy equipment, and aerospace. Drawing on his experiences as a label printing executive with responsibilities in both production and sales, Michael developed the LSI Print Control system to improve operational efficiencies and sales management for printing companies who are interested in growing their business and improving their process.

1. How did you get into the industry?

I spent the first decade of my career in the heavy equipment manufacturing industry working in production planning and purchasing. I spent the next ten years in print and packaging, working in various production and sales roles. I was very fortunate that every company I worked for was growing and changing in some significant way, and I always found myself involved in large projects that involved process changes, software implementations, and system integrations. Based on those experiences, moving into my current role in software sales and consulting made perfect sense.

2. What are you looking forward to explaining to the audience?

The potential of our systems to transform their jobs and their organizations. Many people we talk to have never seen the level of functionality and features that we offer so it’s an exciting thing to share with people for the first time.

3. What do you enjoy most about your role?

Bringing different groups in a company together to make meaningful changes in their organization. So often people become siloed and 100% focused on only the problems that affect them. This typically leads nowhere as most problems require work from multiple departments to be solved. Because our systems and implementations involve a wide range of functional areas, we are able to get sales and production talking together and working more effectively.

4. Where is your favourite place in the world and why?

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for most of the last 20 years and I love it here. It’s a great city where you can find and do anything you want. If it’s not right here, which happens occasionally, you can find it within two hours’ drive in any direction.

5. How do you relax in your leisure time?

I have twin daughters who are 8 years old. When I’m not working, I’m doing my best to keep up with them.

Join Michael in the Siemens and Lean Scheduling International webinar ‘Planning, Scheduling & Estimating Systems for Print & Packaging‘. Register now!

Printers & Converters: Can you respond to your customers more effectively than your competition?

Before you get a chance to impress customers with your technical capabilities, low prices, and commitment to their success you need to perform some very basic tasks. How quickly can you get them a quote? How confident are you in the accuracy of that quote? How quickly can you confirm a ship date? How often do you believe you will actually hit that date?

It takes a lot of effort to put yourself in front of a new prospect. Phone calls, emails, late flights, long drives…these efforts can drag on for months or even years in some cases before you get a chance to convince someone that they should buy from you and your company. There’s nothing more frustrating than putting in the work to get to that point and failing to deliver. Customers expect a lot. They want an accurate, competitive quote, a realistic lead time, and a smooth approval process. Giving them these things can separate you from your competitors. Failure to do so can separate you from prospects and existing customers. Trying to respond to customers without adequate systems and tools quickly becomes a frustrating proposition.

These tasks may seem basic but they typically require input from a variety of people in different roles. Trying to turn a quote around in a hurry? What if you run digital, flexo, offset, and gravure presses? You probably have to quote a job five different ways to know what is best for you and your customer. Different technical specs and broad quantity breaks can make or break you. What about pricing multiple SKUs together? Building tooling and prepress charges into the unit cost? It goes on and on and gets increasingly complicated. Your customer is not concerned. They want a price and they want it quickly. If you’re on the road and you rely on an estimating department you might wait two days or more to get an answer. All the while the clock is ticking. Your customer is thinking about other projects, meeting with other vendors, and forgetting about the great meeting they had with you.

What about lead time? Do you know your true capacity? Can your production team get back to you with reasonable ship dates? Again, there are many factors involved including availability of tooling, substrates, specialty inks, and plates or cylinders. What if you get the order and you’re over capacity? You could move it from a 40” press to a digital press to get it out the door but should you? Will you still make any money? Without the right tools in place these decisions are often made under duress and with little real understanding of the impact they have on your company.

My name is Michael Hunter and I’m the VP of sales for LSI. We are a software development and consulting firm focused on helping manufacturers improve their process using a range of tools with a focus on planning and scheduling. Before coming to LSI I worked in label printing for many years, mostly on the production side but also in various sales roles. I’ve been the sales rep on the road fighting to get an opportunity. At other times I’ve been in charge of production trying to appease a sales force and get everyone’s orders out on time.  What we have developed are tools to bring entire organizations together, supporting your sales goals, defining your production limitations, allowing you to make SMART decisions.

I hope you can join us for our upcoming webinar to learn more about LSI Print Control and our web based estimating systems, advanced planning and scheduling tools, and shop floor data collection systems.