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Color-Matching Ink Systems from the Ground Up

(February 2007) posted on Thu Feb 22, 2007

Discover what types of mixing systems are available, how to use them, and where you can get them.


By Thomas Trimingham

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Saturation This refers to the purity of the color or how sharp or dull it appears (sometimes called chroma).

Brightness This quality of the ink, also referred to as value, relates to the ink's shade or tint (darkness or lightness).

Two additional properties of the inks directly affect the hue and the way that the color is presented. These properties include

Finish The quality in the ink that defines how glossy or matte the final surface of the cured will appear. Matte-finish colors often appear much lighter than gloss finishes after curing, and achieving deeply saturated hues can be tricky. These are some the reasons that you should cure test your matched colors and not just view them in the can.

Opacity This can affect several areas in presentation. Ink that is considered a high-opacity (or HO) formulation doesn't allow light to pass through a finished layer. HO ink tends to be more of a matte finish and flatter in color. The opposite of HO ink transparent ink. Transparent inks tend to have a glossier finish and be deeper in color. Most four-color-process inks (CMYK) are very transparent so they can produce the widest variety of different hues when blended. Opacity also can affect the coloration of an ink by influencing the way the printed surface or other inks underneath it change hue or value.

These factors combine to form the visible color that is reflected from the surface of ink. The more you understand and control these different attributes, the more consistent and reliable the ink-mixing process will be. Now let's look at the mixing environment.

Setting up a good mixing environment

The volume of ink you typically need to mix will influence how you need to set up the mixing environment. If a shop needs a large quantity of ink mixed for long print runs, the whole environment will be significantly different than that of a smaller-volume shop. The larger printer would be prudent to investigate some of the larger ink manufacturers' options in ink-mixing systems and use their tools and concepts to help set up the most efficient solution for mixing and matching lots of ink. A smaller printer that is experiencing growth and higher ink-mixing demands is also a good candidate for a color-matching system.


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