Creating and adapting spot colours – made simple for package printers!

The ability to add new colours and modify colour formulas is essential in the dynamic world of package printing. A digital system with interfacing ink management and formulation software enables printers to manage colour fast, efficiently – and accurately…

Never mind the need to ‘hit the ground running’ when winning a new customer account. There are all sorts of reasons why converters need the flexibility to print new spot colours or adapt ink formulas – sometimes at short notice.

Brand owners’ demands can change like the movements of a kaleidoscope. A brand extension or market trial may necessitate printing a new spot colour. A ‘brand relaunch’ with a new packaging substrate, or even a change in press conditions, can require a modified formula for the same colour.

By carefully following a set of procedures for measuring and testing colours, using a digital, software-driven system, it’s easy to create and modify ink formulas fast – and get results ‘first time right’, without waste.

Essential elements of colour management

Above all, remember: colour is a science! Here are the elements of a colour management system for achieving repeatable, predictable accuracy:

  • Colour values must be measured digitally, for example using CIELAB coordinates, and Delta-E values to describe how close the proof is to the ‘target’ ideal result. This provides an objective standard for evaluating colour accuracy that everyone in the approval process can agree on.
  • A spectrophotometer digitally measures colour, in exactly the same conditions.
  • An offline table-top proofer provides test prints. This compact device uses a miniature version of the press conditions, giving an accurate proof without losing time or start-up waste when testing.
  • Colour formulation software creates and modifies formulas.
  • Ink management software.
  • A gravimetric ink dispensing system, for accurately dispensing each ingredient of the spot colour formula.

Interfacing software packages for speed and efficiency

As we’ve shown in our ‘Smart’ blog, automatic data exchange between software packages speeds up make-ready time, reduces the risk of error and avoids low-value administrative labour. So, the formulation and dispensing software packages need an interface to communicate with each other. GSE Colour connect, for example, interfaces with colour formulation software from a number of leading suppliers.

Colour matching – simplified and automated:
Matthias Haidt, solution architect, X-rite, explains in one minute how to automatically measure colour, generate recipes, make corrections and export that data to the ink dispenser, with a spectrophotometer and software:

Here are simple procedures for working with a new colour, and correcting an existing one:

Creating a new colour formula

  • Step 1: Measure the sample of the colour you intend to print with the spectrophotometer.
  • Step 2: The colour formulation software calculates the ink formula – with components and their precise quantities.
  • Step 3: Import the new formula directly into GSE Ink manager software – simply by clicking the import icon in the software’s dispense window.
  • Step 4: Once the formula is imported, you can activate the dispensing process. The new colour is dispensed into a container.
  • Step 5: Then, print a proof of the sample, offline, with the tabletop proofer.
  • Step 6: After printing, measure the colour again with the spectrophotometer.

If the result is within the specification, proceed with printing the job on the press.

Colour correction

If the result is outside the specification, then a colour correction is needed.

  • Step 7: The colour formulation software calculates what is missing, and suggests a change to the formula.
  • Step 8: Import the modified components into the ink management software in the “adjust container” window.
  • Step 9: Dispense the additions.
  • Steps 10: Print a proof and measure results according to the procedure above. The colour is verified to be within specification.
  • Step 11: The adjusted formula is updated in the ink management software.
  • Step 12: Proceed to the press to print the job.

One-time container adjustment

There are many reasons why the printed or test colour doesn’t come out the way we expect. Thankfully, the ink is not wasted – because in addition to permanent formula corrections software packages can also provide a one-time adjustment.

Adjusting the container is a one-time solution, compensating for abnormal, undesired press conditions, like a substrate colour deviation or a contaminated anilox roll.
You can follow steps 6 to 12 as above, but in step 11, simply click on the “no” button to record the additions in the container only, instead of updating the existing formula (see example in screen shot).

This is important: failure to do so will make any return inks unusable and traceability of added ingredients impossible.

In conclusion

Using digital colour co-ordinates provides an objective standard everyone can agree on. And with interfacing colour formulation and ink management software, the package printer can adapt swiftly to changing customer demands – assuring repeatable quality, without losing time or incurring start-up waste.

Integrated ink and colour management software brings further waste reduction by enabling the clustering of press-return inks. Read all about it here!

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