Digital Color Technology Connects Packaging Tasks | X-Rite Blog

Last updated: 01-20-2021

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Digital Color Technology Connects Packaging Tasks | X-Rite Blog

All it takes is 2 to 7 seconds. That’s right, a tiny snapshot in time is what a consumer invests in making many purchase decisions about a product. This the much talked about and researched “First Moment of Truth.” 

Color is a significant factor in First Moment of Truth, when you considered the reach it has to engage us and communicate to us. This is what can make getting the right color and the color right, the first time, so important in that brand and consumer relationship.

As a brand manager or packaging designer, you invest countless hours and creative energy to create the right face for your products. The packaging and unboxing of a product is that repeatedly experience and engagement created with the consumer that adds to the appeal of the product itself. It’s important to make sure design intent is realized – every time and everywhere that product appears. This is a building block of creating consistency in the consumer experience each time they interact with the product.

Color control and consistency in printed packaging can seem elusive or difficult to achieve, especially when you need large scale production of the packaging. The more you scale in size and across packaging types, the variables that impact print quality – processes, materials, ink types, etc. – and suppliers around the world, make it seem too complex to achieve higher quality packaging results.

Color quality does not need to be sacrificed as you scale or as packaging types become more complex.

…but you are still getting this?

Your situation may not be as exaggerated as this illustration. But, if you have ever wondered why you get mixed or off shade results, we have an answer for you.

Many brands have invested in color tools like brand style guides, visual standards and assessments, but designers still struggle to specify the right color in artwork.

Visual references, like color proofs, ink drawdowns and color books are a start on a brand’s color journey. The challenges with a visual-only approach to color specification and verification are two-fold:  

Consider the effect of different substrates, printing processes, and ink types. It becomes costly to produce samples in each of the variations. And, since the samples are physical samples that are produced, each sample has potential to be produced with slight variations. 

Physical standards must be distributed and maintained. If you have one supplier, this is easier to do. At some point, the number of people and companies who need a “copy” of the sample will increase with a direct effect on increasing the work effort required to maintain that. Adding digital color specification to the mix can alleviate many of the communication and maintenance constraints and will complement the physical samples.

It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle between design and production. Often designers assume there is an issue with color accuracy and express it that way to production – “That’s the best I can do for the manufacturing process” – when in reality the issue is color specification and alignment across packaging materials. 

Notice the color misalignment between recycle board and aluminum? This blog explains how minor mistakes can snowball into the dreaded “error stack.”

While print quality programs vary, they usually have a common theme: send people onsite to monitor print production, sign-off on color on press, and ship proofs or samples around the globe. These manual processes are inefficient, expensive, and lead to long approval cycles.  

More importantly, traditional print quality programs are not scalable. When the supplier pool is small and controlled, it’s easier for brands to micromanage quality through manual processes. Scaling requires a color strategy that is systematic, transparent, and embedded in the suppliers’ daily work stream.  

To achieve packaging that sells, brands – especially those operating in global supply chains – need to shift from a hands-on service approach to a technology approach to keep costs in control and get consistent results.

Once the emphasis of color evaluation shifts from a physical reference to a common known digital value, everyone can do a better job of achieving the original design intent color.

To get better color results on different packaging materials, you must start by defining and specifying the right colors to your suppliers. A digital ecosystem enables you to extend guidance to your suppliers so they can deliver achievable results in-line with your expectations. 

The Key Message: Digital color technology connects packaging tasks, and specifying digital color to suppliers returns big impact for relatively low effort. 

We offer a number of great resources on our website to help you learn more about digital color. Here are a few.

Our X-Rite Pantone Packaging Color Experts developed this comprehensive guide to help you align the people, processes and technology within your packaging supply chain, in order to achieve consistent, accurate color across the globe. Download your free copy to learn tips to enhance your Color and Print Quality program for more consistent color on brand packaging, with less rework and effort.

Getting started is hard. Our Color Experts can work with you to digitize your brand library and implement color strategies to optimize your print quality program. Learn about our most popular consulting offerings in this blog, or get in touch to customize an online or onsite program to fits your needs.

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