Monday, November 23, 2009

How to (theoretically) roll your own colour matching system

The following gives background and advances an untried method for developing a colour matching system. It hasn't been tried yet, but I'm working on it.

The basic facts: Colour matching systems exist to standardize colour across the different parts of pre-press workflow. The dominant player, Pantone, uses ten different inks to create its spot colours. In addition to spot colour, Pantone employs its own augmented version of CMYK: Hexachrome, or CMYKOG. Hexachrome is supposed to be able to replicate more of the Pantone spot colour gamut than traditional CMYK can.

To roll your own spot colour standard, you'll need:
  • a light spectrometer (build, buy or borrow)
  • samples of ink from various manufacturers
  • samples of basic, elemental pigment
  • a precise scale
  • time
  • various types of paper
First, analyse your ink selection. which colours do the various manufacturers have in common, aside from CMYK? Once you've found a range of widely available colours, it's time to break out the spectrometer. Make some consistent colour swatches. That is to say, lay in a supply of a few types of paper. Take one of your available colours (you'll want to make sure you have a sample of that colour as produced by different manufacturers). Applying your ink evenly, create a swatch of that colour for each manufacturer. You should have several different swatches of the same colour, a few for each different brand of ink (more or less, depending on the number of papers you're testing with).

Next, grab your spectrometer. Use it to measure the different inks, comparing readings across brands. If two inks have the same readings on one type of paper, go on to the next type of paper and make sure they still match. If you get an exact match on all types of paper, score! Now see if any of the other inks match the spectrum. From each colour group, you should get data about which brands match each other exactly. Be sure to note the details. In an ideal world, it should be possible to find a grouping of different ink manufacturers who make matching products (although who knows what the success rate will be in reality). If they match across the spectrum of common colours, you've got yourself a palette.

You can use this palette as a jumping off point for your own colour mixing experiments. You'll eventually want to narrow down the number of different inks. Pantone, as mentioned above, uses ten. With a base selection of inks, consistent across several manufacturers, you can create your own custom palette of spot colours.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

OCS Research Report V1.0.1

Version 1.0.1 of the OCS Research Report is now available. Download the pdf.

Revisions in v1.0.1:

p1. contributor list
p6. "The reverse of this is, of course, also true."
p6. "(including #0099cc, the colour of the OCS logo)"
p7. "As mentioned above, Pantone provides mixing instructions to print professionals. These instructions provide the direction necessary to create any colour in the Pantone range from a set of base colours (these colours include process yellow, process magenta, process cyan, process black, orange, red, blue, yellow, warm red, rubine red, rhodamine red, purple, violet, reflex blue, process blue and black). These instructions are laid out in a similar fashion to paint mixing ratios."
pp7-8. "despite the existence of other viable palettes such as Focoltone, Trumatech, Munsell (the rights to which are currently owned by X-Rite, Pantone's parent company), Toyo, HKS, RAL and so on."
p9. "(a Canadian chain of book stores)"
p13. "is" between the words "involvement" and "what" in paragraph 3
p15. a space between "students," and "use"
p15. "Usability: Even if they wish to try Open Source alternatives, many designers lack the skills required to do so. They may find programs difficult to install, with technical issues they aren't used to dealing with."

Formatting changed to minimize excess white space at the tops of some pages.

p11. " and the principles behind it" from after "(FLOSS)"

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Research Report: release 1.0

After yesterday's post of the beta version of this report, it's now time to roll out version 1.0. Changes since the last version include a newly added bibliography and table of contents, changes to the inline citation style and new content added to the section on Open Source and designers.

Download version 1.0 as a PDF

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Research Report on Colour, Open Source and Designers

A taste of the report:

"The purpose of the following research report is to create context for the Open Colour Standard project. To that end, this report discusses issues of colour, commercial and non-commercial colour spaces, the use of colour in industry, the Pantone colour space and the business behind it, Open Source projects, their adoption and the possibility of Open Source design."

Full report, as a PDF

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pantone Laundry List

Below is a brief list of products sold by Pantone and what they do.

  • display calibration software/devices (colorimeters) for getting accurate on-screen colour
  • spectrophotometers for measuring the wavelengths of light
  • palette management software for selecting Pantone colours from images, building co-ordinated palettes and managing those palettes
  • colour chip books for selecting and matching Pantone colours and getting mixing instructions
  • colour matching electronic thingies for pointing at colour, whereupon the thingie tells you what the nearest pantone equivalent is
  • digital colour chips same as the colour chip books, except digital
  • colour chip books for process colour same as standard colour chip books, but for CMYK colours instead of Pantone
  • colour selector systems for opaque and transparent plastics with cross references to pantone textile and print systems for selecting plastic colours
  • cotton colour swatch sets for selecting fabric colours
  • colour forecasts for up to a year in the future, detailing what colour trends will be in upcoming fashion/houseware seasons


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Very Preliminary Findings on Commercial Colour

Pantone: de facto industry standard for colour matching
  • Does print, textile, plastics, paint, has own line of consumer goods in Pantone colours
  • Loads of things are specified in Pantone colours: Canadian flag red, colours of plants in patent applications, sciencey things, spot colour in offset printing
  • Sells chip books that help designers determine what colours will look like when printed, as well as providing ink mixing instructions to printers. The chip books need to be replaced every year to prevent fading. They also happen to be ridiculously expensive.
  • Has its colour specification built into the Adobe Creative Suite
Not Pantone

Paint manufacturers tend to have their own colour systems.

Canadian Government Standards Board has specifications for paint. I just need to get my hands on a copy of the document.

Individual manufacturers of markers have their own systems (for example, Letraset, which bases its colour system on HSL)