How do I explain to a client that a CMYK value is not an actual color?

Magnus

Well-known member
We do a lot of print work for clients like ad agencys and design agencys. We are printing and proofing accordingly to Fogra51 and Fogra52 (sheetfed offset and digital printing F51). We even run certification program which assure that we are printing according to ISO 12647-2:2013.

Now and then we get involved in helping these clients with corporate identitys. This usually involves proofing (and some times offset printing) a couple of brand color samples (delivered by the agency) on both coated and uncoated stock for the client to choose from. The files that we print are usually untagged CMYK vector files, because that's the way most clients are used to work.

Now the fun part begins. The client now realize that they will end up with a big list of color values for different printing conditions. Sometimes they aware of this. But sometimes they "blame" us like - You are the printer, why doesn't my CMYK-value looks the same on different stock and print conditions?
The client would like us to give them ONE color value that they can use for all their print designs.

I found it hard to give the client a short and easy answer to this question. I understand why, I work with colormanagement all day, but our clients do not understand this most of the time.

1. How can I explain this for my client in a case like the above?

2. What is the best practice for handling corporate colors when the client doesn't want to print Pantone? Lab, tagged RGB, different CMYK values for different output, honor the output intent of the PDF and convert the whole PDF in the rip?

3. I've read a bit about CfX3, is it usable yet?

Any input would be helpful.

Best regards,
Magnus
 
Now and then we get involved in helping these clients with corporate identitys. This usually involves proofing (and some times offset printing) a couple of brand color samples (delivered by the agency) on both coated and uncoated stock for the client to choose from. The files that we print are usually untagged CMYK vector files, because that's the way most clients are used to work.

Now the fun part begins. The client now realize that they will end up with a big list of color values for different printing conditions. Sometimes they aware of this. But sometimes they "blame" us like - You are the printer, why doesn't my CMYK-value looks the same on different stock and print conditions?
The client would like us to give them ONE color value that they can use for all their print designs.

Hi Magnus. You will not probably like my view but I would say the customer IS right. It is basically the same thing Frank Romano complained about.

My view is that basically the whole colour management system is wrong and one should not be dealing with any big list of colour values but just one list of real colour values. Also it should be the correct colour type of values, where the values are scalable. I won't go into any details because this is mainly a concept view of mine and not related to your specific problem.

What you can say to your clients, which would be the truth, is that the methods used in the industry are not clear and are ambiguous related to obtaining predictable colour, but at this time this is all we have to work with.

I have heard about CfX3 but I don't know the details. I would worry that it might also be a flawed method, because I have not seen many comments about a truly rational way of looking at these kinds of problems.
 
You are the printer, why doesn't my CMYK-value looks the same on different stock and print conditions?
The client would like us to give them ONE color value that they can use for all their print designs.

I found it hard to give the client a short and easy answer to this question. I understand why, I work with colormanagement all day, but our clients do not understand this most of the time.

1. How can I explain this for my client in a case like the above?

2. What is the best practice for handling corporate colors when the client doesn't want to print Pantone? Lab, tagged RGB, different CMYK values for different output, honor the output intent of the PDF and convert the whole PDF in the rip?

Simple. You whip out your handy copy of Flint Ink's "Color Quiz":

Color%20Quiz_zps92z5zysu.jpg


This shows the same 100% Cyan or Magenta ink printed on different papers.

Pretty obvious that the color changes according to the paper it's printed on.

The same thing would happen if the ink was a Pantone rather than a process ink. Same ink - different colors.
 
Gentlemen,

As "per usual" Gordo gave us the perfect answer, Paper and its Refractive Index.


Regards, Alois
 
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Magnus, you and your client are in for a real treat. Have you ever seen a corporate logo/color spec book, UPS's book is like 1.5 inches thick and covers everything from printing to sign making, vehicle wraps, vehicle painting, building signs, logo sizes, logo used in black and white, if they can dream it up they will write a specification for it.

Sidebar: A few years ago a high end architect (long time client of ours) "re-branded" their corporate identity. The professional "re-branders" came out with a book like I mentioned for them and files for their new stationary. I was and I shit you not a 4/c+2 pantone color for all of their stationary including their business cards. We gave them a bid based on their specifications and after they looked at the bid and called 911 they called us and said why so much . . . well I looked at the end result that they wanted and then studied it for a while and got it down to a 2pms/1pms job for the b.c.s using pantone colors and screens of it, matched the colors as close as or better than the process builds they specified. Saved them a ton of money and still have them as a client to this day.
 
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Hello Magnus,

I think this is still a very common problem. Erik is correct in saying that the customer does not want do deal with multiple colour values. They shouldn't have to. So the only answer is a single Lab target.

So your challenge is to demystify Lab. Step one is to undermine the blind reliance on CMYK.

The flint colour quiz is great. You can make your own depending on how many stocks you carry. Another alternative is to show the client the Pantone coated formula guide and the uncoated formula guide for the same Pantone reference. Then show them the ink formula printed underneath is the same for both. Say, "hey look, this is the effect paper alone has on your print."


Another way is to show the client the Pantone colour bridge guide. Go for the bright oranges and bright greens. You can show how even the guy's at Pantone cannot hit those out of gamut colours.

You just need to show that CMYK is not the perfect way to establish a colour standard. Coke is always a good example as the red bottle top has to match the print but there is no CMYK for plastics. The only way Coke define their brand colour is through Lab.

The more you explain Lab to people, the deeper your own understanding will become. It's never a waste of time. There are some neat you tube videos out there. Watch a few and you might find a graphic or a metaphor that sums it up for someone at your clients level.

CMYK values are not a colour in the same way that measured dry ingredients are not a cake. Only when you combine the ingredients and put them in they oven do you have a cake. But everyone's oven is different.

Oh .... And of course there is the colour of toast....

http://www.colorwiki.com/wiki/The_Color_of_Toast
 
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Gordo has a great answer, but a slightly easier way to explain it to your client, grab your PMS books (coated and uncoated). I know you said that they didn't want to use PMS, but this is the method that I use for all my clients before we start in on brand standards to illustrate what happens.

Flip both books to PMS 123. This is one the most dramatic and drastic color shifts from coated to uncoated I have ever seen. And I learned about this one the hard way (for my customer anyway). They did a rebranding and picked all their colors using a coated book, even though EVERYTHING got printed on uncoated. Needless to say, they were rather upset when they got all their nice new rebranded materials.

Now once you have them understanding what can happen with the inks, you have a few possible tracks to go down. Figure out what the different breakdowns need to be for the different print methods/stocks and just do a batch replace on their files before you print. Attempt to educate them and get them to create their art based on how it's printing. (good luck with that one). Third option is to try to convince them to pick colors that look the same across the board, there are a few but not many.

I have done all three with the same customer as our relationship changed and grew, and other customers too.

And while designing to LaB standards might help to standardize things to some level it has a BIG downfall. it's still not going to let you achieve a coated 021 orange in a 4-color breakdown on an uncoated sheet.

Overall, there a lot of good suggestions here, and you just need to figure out what is going to work best for you and your client.
 
And while designing to LaB standards might help to standardize things to some level it has a BIG downfall. it's still not going to let you achieve a coated 021 orange in a 4-color breakdown on an uncoated sheet.

If you have your press profiled for that condition it could.
 
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the answer to question 2 is 3

and yes to

"3. I've read a bit about CfX3, is it usable yet?"

It is always been "useable" - depends on how one might define useable - are you expecting that somehow that data would be embedded within the metadata or XMP of a PDF file, and that some RIP might "know" to modify the CMYK tint values ?

I mean, what if it were a SPOT separation ? I will assume you understand that that 100% on a plate is well, 100%. So, unless this is some digital printing system, not sure what CXF is supposed to do auto-magically...

http://www.xrite.com/categories/digital-color-standards/color-exchange-format-cxf

https://www.iso.org/standard/61500.html
 
If you have your press profiled for that condition it could.

Unless you're printing hex or using fluorescent base inks, there is no way to print PMS 021 orange using regular CMYK on coated, let alone uncoated. Unless you have a way to extend the available gamut of CMYK that I have never heard of.
 
1. How can I explain this for my client in a case like the above?

2. What is the best practice for handling corporate colors when the client doesn't want to print Pantone? Lab, tagged RGB, different CMYK values for different output, honor the output intent of the PDF and convert the whole PDF in the rip?

3. I've read a bit about CfX3, is it usable yet?

Any input would be helpful.

Best regards,
Magnus

1. Try DEER posters from idealliance. Hang them everywhere in your plant. And send to your customers.
2. Kodak spotless
3. 100% usable. Already in iso. Best with exact if your customers have one +net profiling
​​​​​
 
Hi, were can I find the DEER posters? I did not succeed to order or download from the Idealliance site.. http://prod.idealliance.org/products/2012-deer-posters

I'll see if I can figure out where they are hidden in the half redesigned Idealliance site. I noticed the other day that they must have started redesigning the site, but only about half of it, and succeeded in breaking ALL of it. :( I did manage to find what I was looking for the other day, but it took a LOT of poking and prodding to find the right link.
 
Unless you're printing hex or using fluorescent base inks, there is no way to print PMS 021 orange using regular CMYK on coated, let alone uncoated. Unless you have a way to extend the available gamut of CMYK that I have never heard of.

That isn't a disadvantage of LAB values but of the printing process. Unless you are saying that if you do not work in a CMYK colorspace when designing you do not know how the art will reproduce until you simulate the image in the intended CMYK profile then I agree with you but I think hitting Command+Y is easy enough.
 
No Title

Here is a scan of another, 50-odd years old Ink Quiz, much like Gordos'.
In this quiz 3 inks were printed on 9 different paper stocks, die-cut in successively larger triangular holes, stacked and stapled together to form a small booklet.
Many times this helped me illustrate with minimal verbal explanations...
 

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