Brand colors in CMYK - Spot Matching System (SMS)

Correct Color

Well-known member
Gordo,

Just for the record, Adobe did not develop Flash.

It was developed by a small company in LA named FutureWave Software, and originally called FutureSplash. FutureWave was bought in the mid-nineties by Macromedia, and FutureSplash became Macromedia Flash. And at the time, and just as vector animation software, it was cool as all hell.

When Adobe swallowed up Macromedia, they began the porking out of Flash, eventually making it the hated hog it eventually became.

Too bad, really.


Mike Adams


Correct Color
 

Correct Color

Well-known member
On the topic at hand, I'll just say...

Wow... That's terrific.

One thing I'm often asked by clients is if this and that will match, and my standard reply is, "Yes, with two caveats: White point of the media and gamut of the device."

Most clients nod, understand, and seem content with that, but occasionally someone will ask if there isn't a way to compensate.

Sure there is, I tell them. The way to do that is to dumb whatever you're doing down to the smallest gamut you have to deal with.

So let's say you're running an ad in Architectural Digest, and in the Sunday supplement of the local newspaper.

Want them both to match? Because what that means is your ad in Architectural Digest can look exactly like it was printed on newsprint.

I've yet to meet a client who thought that was a good idea.



Mike
 
D

Deleted member 16349

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On the topic at hand, I'll just say...



So let's say you're running an ad in Architectural Digest, and in the Sunday supplement of the local newspaper.

Want them both to match? Because what that means is your ad in Architectural Digest can look exactly like it was printed on newsprint.

I've yet to meet a client who thought that was a good idea.



Mike

It is so interesting to see that reality sometimes results in something that is not considered ideal.

Your example makes perfect sense.
 

SMS

Active member
Gordo,

Just for the record, Adobe did not develop Flash.

It was developed by a small company in LA named FutureWave Software, and originally called FutureSplash. FutureWave was bought in the mid-nineties by Macromedia, and FutureSplash became Macromedia Flash. And at the time, and just as vector animation software, it was cool as all hell.

When Adobe swallowed up Macromedia, they began the porking out of Flash, eventually making it the hated hog it eventually became.

Too bad, really.


Mike Adams


Correct Color

That is interesting Mike, thank you. I only knew it as Macromedia Flash. I was - and still am, a real Macromedia fan. I still use Macromedia Freehand (don't tell anyone).
 

SMS

Active member
On the topic at hand, I'll just say...

Wow... That's terrific.

One thing I'm often asked by clients is if this and that will match, and my standard reply is, "Yes, with two caveats: White point of the media and gamut of the device."

Most clients nod, understand, and seem content with that, but occasionally someone will ask if there isn't a way to compensate.

Sure there is, I tell them. The way to do that is to dumb whatever you're doing down to the smallest gamut you have to deal with.

So let's say you're running an ad in Architectural Digest, and in the Sunday supplement of the local newspaper.

Want them both to match? Because what that means is your ad in Architectural Digest can look exactly like it was printed on newsprint.

I've yet to meet a client who thought that was a good idea.



Mike

Hey Mike, thank you for your comment.

WELL, in theory this would of course be possible - i.e. to force the ad to look identical cross coated and uncoated paper. This may sound dumb, but it is actually a very good idea in some cases. For instance if you take out a spread in a magazine at the very front and the cover happens to be printed on uncoated paper but the inside pages are coated.

But of course this is a rather unique case and I agree with you in general - well when it comes to ads, that typically are made up of photographs that we want as vivid as possible in general. On the other hand if the advertisement is supposed to showcase a certain color - say the color of a piece of furniture or the color of car or the color of a house or the color of a piece of clothing, it would be pretty cool if you had a way to hit the original color of the object being advertised in Architectural Digest and your local newspaper. Wouldn't you agree?

When it comes to corporate colors, graphic elements and headlines in general, if your logo colors CAN be reached in CMYK for both coated and uncoated paper, wouldn't you want that?

If cool, natural colors are appropriate for your customer, making a special more vibrant version just for printing on coated paper is a dumb idea in my book - except maybe as a festive version for the christmas cards where you might also want to add foil for decoration.

If you pick a really vibrant color for a corporate logo, everytime you see their logo printed in CMYK, it looks like someone messed up.

But the CMYK version is actually just the "cool and natural" version of the logo - that version that you see in approx. 2/3 or more cases you see that logo printed anyway.

So in general, dumbing brand colors down to CMYK is actually not dumb. It is practical.
 

gordo

Well-known member
So in general, dumbing brand colors down to CMYK is actually not dumb. It is practical.

I don't think you'll get disagreement on that. However, you're going a step further. You're dumbing down brand colors to uncoated CMYK. I doubt that there will be much support for that goal.
 
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SMS

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I don't think you'll get disagreement on that. However, you're going a step further. You're dumbing down brand colors to uncoated CMYK. I doubt that there will be much support for that goal.

Lets hope you are wrong Gordo :)
 

Danny Whitehead

Well-known member
Lets hope you are wrong Gordo :)

He isn't. You've identified the problem accurately enough, but I'm almost certain this solution will fail, not least because there's already a better one - a combination of ICC-based colour management, an understanding of the limitations of different media, and an understanding of the brand owner's needs.

One of our clients has various seasonal sales over the year. For each one, they launch a campaign that includes social media, direct mail, and local newspaper ads, all featuring a colourful seasonal illustration, and I create the artwork for all of it. For consistency, I could start with the ISOnewspaper26v4 gamut, and convert for everything else. Do you think the client will be happy with those dull-as-dishwater designs? I don't, so I start with sRGB, and an understanding of what's likely to happen to those colours when they hit the digital press, the local paper and a Facebook feed.
 
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SMS

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He isn't. You've identified the problem accurately enough, but I'm almost certain this solution will fail, not least because there's already a better one - a combination of ICC-based colour management, an understanding of the limitations of different media, and an understanding of the brand owner's needs.

One of our clients has various seasonal sales over the year. For each one, they launch a campaign that includes social media, direct mail, and local newspaper ads, all featuring a colourful seasonal illustration, and I create the artwork for all of it. For consistency, I could start with the ISOnewspaper26v4 gamut, and convert for everything else. Do you think the client will be happy with those dull-as-dishwater designs? I don't, so I start with sRGB, and an understanding of what's likely to happen to those colours when they hit the digital press, the local paper and a Facebook feed.

Hi Danny

Thank you for your comment.

I am not asking designers to drop everything and just use SMS CMYK for all their jobs.

To be clear, I would in general never advise dumbing down of photographs.

SMS CMYK colors are a simple palette of colors that you can use if for some reason you want 1 or 2 or maybe 3 colors within your layout to remain the same whether you print them on coated or uncoated paper, - say the colors of a corporate logo. That is the primary function of SMS.

SMS colors can also be convenient to use as supplementary colors/background colors in a layout etc. There is 420 of them, from pale to full strength and each one will print uniformly on coated or uncoated paper.

This may not be necessary in all cases, but I hope at least some designers will want to at least have the option at their fingertips, rather than not having it.

You are completely correct that you can do it yourself manually on a customer to customer basis if you have the necessary knowledge in color management.
If you think that is a better solution, that's ok.

The same can be said about a lot of solutions of course.

SMS is just a simple out-of-the-box tool to save time and money you could be spending on something else. The colors are there and any designer can pick any color he or she likes and order it if the customer approves - even if they don't know anything about color management and print standards.

You can also order "the closest SMS likeness" to just about any known color, if none of the colors from the SMS palette are to your liking.

One advantage that I really hope will considered relevant is that, instead of tweaking a customer's color yourself within a CMYK layout, depending on the substrate, if you use and specify a few SMS CMYK colors in your job description, you might actually see better results in the overall quality of your job - and hopefully more consistency between your print jobs, since the printer has been made aware that this job is supposed to be printed according to ISO 12647-2-2013, - not just any standard - and that you are likely to be checking those colors afterwards.

It's the same difference in quality and consistency between jobs I would hope for between you providing your printer with your own special ink to be printed as a spot color - v.s. you providing the printer with a Pantone number - i.e. both you and the printer should know what your color looks like in advance.
 

gordo

Well-known member
I wish you luck in convincing creatives and brand owners that they should switch their brand color, for example, from this:

C Brand 1.jpg


to this:

C Brand 2.jpg


for the sake of brand color consistency.
 

prepress labels

Well-known member
Interesting thread--a few thoughts (some of which have been at least partially addressed):
  1. Wouldn't 7-color expanded gamut (CMYKOGV) make CMYK obsolete as far as brand color management? The only reason I can think of to adopt a newly-created CMYK SMS would be to conform to a print shop's existing press capabilities (esp. digital).
  2. Helping match coated to uncoated sounds interesting--we've always done drawdowns from our ink room when our proofs couldn't approximate color.
  3. In the Internet age, hasn't photographic color consistency (for print, anyways), diminished in importance relative to brand color consistency? What I mean is: magazines, brochures & newspapers are in decline, while packaging may not be so much.
  4. In capitalism (in America, anyways), it seems that everyone who is selling anything wants the packaging to stand out from the competition (especially if the product itself is largely the same across brands). So theoretically, if everyone adopted whatever CMYK SMS, anyone who deviated would stand out from the crowd in the marketplace, and probably sell more product. The thing is, everyone would have this exact same thought, and would want to stand out in their own way (special spot inks, metallics, foil, white ink, varnish, etc.), leaving us back where we are now. No matter what kind of standardization exists, someone always wants to break the rules for their particular product.
  5. Our company printed a color atlas about nine years ago, in 4 and 6-color process. We haven't really done one since, because we're usually taking our cues from brand designers and not the other way around. To me, any CMYK SMS would only show a brand designer what they're missing.
 

SMS

Active member
I wish you luck in convincing creatives and brand owners that they should switch their brand color, for example, from this:

C Brand 1.jpg


to this:

C Brand 2.jpg


for the sake of brand color consistency.

Actually this is an excellent example Gordo, if you look at the brand standard for Coke. I am sure their designers will consider SMS to stabilize their red color in print.
 

gordo

Well-known member
A few thoughts on your points:

"1 Wouldn't 7-color expanded gamut (CMYKOGV) make CMYK obsolete as far as brand color management?"

• Are you printing with a 7-color expanded gamut process? If not why not? If so for what purpose.
Often, expanded process printers will use the brand color as one of the extended process hues in order to avoid logos being screened.

"2 Helping match coated to uncoated sounds interesting--we've always done drawdowns from our ink room when our proofs couldn't approximate color."

• Setting expectations is good. The OP would have the brand owner make the uncoated the brand color target instead.

"3 In the Internet age, hasn't photographic color consistency (for print, anyways), diminished in importance relative to brand color consistency?"

• I haven't seen that.

"What I mean is: magazines, brochures & newspapers are in decline, while packaging may not be so much."

• It was a flesh wound for magazines as they are not in a drastic decline ( https://tinyurl.com/yamamknm ). Newspapers on the other hand are going over a cliff.

"4 In capitalism (in America, anyways), it seems that everyone who is selling anything wants the packaging to stand out from the competition (especially if the product itself is largely the same across brands)."

• I don't think that's only for the Americas. As far as I've seen, it's true for non-capitalist countries as well.

"So theoretically, if everyone adopted whatever CMYK SMS, anyone who deviated would stand out from the crowd in the marketplace, and probably sell more product."

• That's one of the main reasons for printers not adhering exclusively to an industry defined print specification like ISO 12647-2-2013 standard / Gracol 2013 .

"The thing is, everyone would have this exact same thought, and would want to stand out in their own way (special spot inks, metallics, foil, white ink, varnish, etc.), leaving us back where we are now. No matter what kind of standardization exists, someone always wants to break the rules for their particular product."

• Awesome. The problem, IMHO, is that print service providers are typically very poor at leveraging the flexibility of their production equipment.
BTW, if you want to see examples of very creative printing, head over to the children's section of any bookstore - that is, if you can find a bookstore.

"Our company printed a color atlas about nine years ago, in 4 and 6-color process. We haven't really done one since, because we're usually taking our cues from brand designers and not the other way around. To me, any CMYK SMS would only show a brand designer what they're missing."

• The Pantone swatch books have been showing this to creatives and brand owners for decades. It's fallen on deaf eyes.
 
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SMS

Active member
Interesting thread--a few thoughts (some of which have been at least partially addressed):
  1. Wouldn't 7-color expanded gamut (CMYKOGV) make CMYK obsolete as far as brand color management?

    CMYKOGV (or something similar) will I'm sure end CMYK when CMYKOGV becomes the global standard for color printing. Right now you can't even convert RGB to CMYKOGV in Photoshop (at least the last time I checked), - so it is still in it's infant years. Once it becomes the global standard, you will be able to buy SMS CMYKOGV colors of course ;-)

    The only reason I can think of to adopt a newly-created CMYK SMS would be to conform to a print shop's existing press capabilities (esp. digital).

    I do believe just about all printshops, large and small have CMYK printers or presses. Most of them will be able to receive a CMYK PDF that is either made for printing on Fogra 51 or Fogra 52ish paper and convert the document to their devices color gamut. So, basically the printshops have to conform to the icc profile that is attached (or not attached) to the document they receive from their customer - well in the case where they are using SMS CMYK colors.
  2. Helping match coated to uncoated sounds interesting--we've always done drawdowns from our ink room when our proofs couldn't approximate color.

    It is actually really cool, especially if you are a printer. For me it is the the perfect proof that color management is not just a hype. I hope SMS will help reduce the number of ink drawdowns you have to do.
  3. In the Internet age, hasn't photographic color consistency (for print, anyways), diminished in importance relative to brand color consistency? What I mean is: magazines, brochures & newspapers are in decline, while packaging may not be so much.

    Well, these days everyone is talking about brand colors and a lot of big companies are spending a lot of energy focused on brand colors. However, all the energy seems to be focused towards the packaging industry - on printing on coated substrates, to be more precise - while commercial printing, magazine printing and newspaper printing seem to be completely forgotten. I am guessing it's because there is more money in packaging than the other categories. I have actually not heard a lot of work being put into maintaining consistency between photographs, - while of course we have the ISO standard which attempts to standardize (at least perceptually) the colors in photographs. I am not too concerned about consistency in color of photographs - except if the photograph should include one of my SMS colors - in that case I want it to be correct ;-)
  4. In capitalism (in America, anyways), it seems that everyone who is selling anything wants the packaging to stand out from the competition (especially if the product itself is largely the same across brands). So theoretically, if everyone adopted whatever CMYK SMS, anyone who deviated would stand out from the crowd in the marketplace, and probably sell more product.

    I would have hoped that anyone who dared deviate from the standard would be expelled from the USA. I have not yet been able to reach Mr. Trump, but I will be having this discussion with him when I do.

    Perhaps something has changed but I don't think manufacturers of consumer products are spending all that money to try to ensure brand color consistency and to minimize color deviations between batches just because they don't know where to put their money.


    The thing is, everyone would have this exact same thought, and would want to stand out in their own way (special spot inks, metallics, foil, white ink, varnish, etc.), leaving us back where we are now. No matter what kind of standardization exists, someone always wants to break the rules for their particular product.

    Breaking the rules is fine but consistency never goes out of style - whether it has to do with picking one color and making sure that the product remains in that color, or if you are manufacturing a chair. You build your prototype of the chair, try it out and then you send it to the manufacturer. If you manufacture 100.000 chairs, I assume you would want all 100.000 chairs to be identical, - right?
  5. Our company printed a color atlas about nine years ago, in 4 and 6-color process. We haven't really done one since, because we're usually taking our cues from brand designers and not the other way around. To me, any CMYK SMS would only show a brand designer what they're missing.

The Spot Matching System (SMS) is made for brand owners and advertising agencies. If they don't buy into my philosophy, we are done.

Printers only have to print according to ISO 12647 / G7 to be SMS Ready.
 
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SMS

Active member
I wish you luck in convincing creatives and brand owners that they should switch their brand color, for example, from this:

C Brand 1.jpg


to this:

C Brand 2.jpg


for the sake of brand color consistency.

Following up on your excellent example of the logo of the great Coca Cola, - which shows pretty well the difference you tend to get when you use a fixed CMYK value for printing on coated and uncoated paper - which is regretfully the standard we see in many visual brand identities today.

To give you an example, if we pick out the color SMS J-19 from the system, the web version would look something like this.
It is slightly cooler than the coated version you served me Gordo, but Coca Cola should be served cold, isn't that right?


C Brand 3.jpg
 

Stephen Marsh

Well-known member
Is this topic thread still running? :]

Visual identity is not only for multinationals and the big end of town.

Some people like vibrant, saturated colours – some probably don’t. Colour trends change.

Is it such a stretch to imagine a designer or agency asking a new client the following:
“What is more important to you:
(a) consistent colour across diversely printed materials (coated and uncoated, forgetting newsprint, kraft paper box printing etc), or
(b) achieving a more intense/vibrant/saturated result in some print mediums vs. others where this is not possible, therefore having the best in each medium, but inconsistent colour across the range?”​


Sure, this may not be for every designer/agency/client – however I don’t doubt that it could be a valid discussion.


Stephen Marsh
 
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SMS

Active member
Is this topic thread still running? :]

Yes, we plan to keep it running until Gordo has given a formal statement that SMS is the best color matching system in the universe :)

Visual identity is not only for multinationals and the big end of town.

Some people like vibrant, saturated colours – some probably don’t. Colour trends change.

That's exactly right Stephen.

For instance the Pantone Color of the Year 2019 is quite subtle and natural, - one I bet could be matched quite well in SMS. I am not going to do that however without a formal request from my friends at Pantone.

There will surely always be companies and causes where it is appropriate to go as vibrant as you can in color, while for other companies and causes, more natural colors may in fact work better. There is a global trend towards everything natural, including using paper rather than plastic and in that case rather using "natural" paper rather than coated - i.e. uncoated paper, - which should help SMS, since SMS colors are developed for uncoated paper and coated paper, hand in hand.


Is it such a stretch to imagine a designer or agency asking a new client the following:
“What is more important to you:
(a) consistent colour across diversely printed materials (coated and uncoated, forgetting newsprint, kraft paper box printing etc), or
(b) achieving a more intense/vibrant/saturated result in some print mediums vs. others where this is not possible, therefore having the best in each medium, but inconsistent colour across the range?”​


Sure, this may not be for every designer/agency/client – however I don’t doubt that it could be a valid discussion.

This is a valid point Stephen and I am sure your approach would work in many cases.

Personally I have always been a bit of a dictator at heart. I like the idea of the brand owner / customer giving the advertising agency he hires full creative freedom, from designing the logo and artwork to picking the most appropriate colors for the logo.

I simply don't like it when non-professional customers start mingling in things they don't understand, just because they are paying for it. It will end up in an "acceptable" outcome - but probably not award winning design.


Having said that, I WOULD however like brand owners to put down their foot if their colors turn out to be inconsistent in all mediums - since this is in my opinion as important as spelling the name of the company correctly in all cases.

From my perspective it simply doesn't make sense to represent a company - at least medium to large companies in many color variations that are even random within the same category (because there is no conditional standard). As I mention somewhere on this thread, - it looks like someone messed up.

For instance, my c4m100y95k0 will probably not look like yours, unless we first agree on the printing standard and the papertype.

Best regards

Ingi



Stephen Marsh

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