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What's your swatch setup?

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by Signed Out, Jan 29, 2020.

  1. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    Looking to build a color swatch/pallet for illustrator that incorporates our go to colors for printing. Goal being easier more consistent workflow. Typically how we handle artwork is this:

    Any raster images: print as is, adjust in photoshop if necessary for brightness/color.

    Vector artwork supplied by customers: we suggest we print a sample for them to approve the colors before production (they usually skip this) print as is unless customer wants to tweak.

    Vector artwork that we create: This is the area we are trying to improve upon. We switched from a roland printer to an epson several months back. With the roland we used to use the Roland Spot Colors for pretty much everything and it was a pretty simple system to work with for vector graphics. We had that system figured out pretty good where we knew the right spot color to match to pretty much every standard Oracal cut vinyl color (we liked this because it made it easy to color match to cut vinyl jobs and give a good but not too large of color choices that are pretty standard in the industry). Downside to this with the Roland spot colors is that the spot colors don't look right on computer screen, so they would look wrong in customer proofs. So What we ultimately did was do the initial designing with an illustrator rgb swatch to proof with customers. Then that artwork would go to our print dept. and they would swap out whatever colors needed to be swapped with spot colors for best print quality. This system wasn't perfect at all, kind of a PIA but the roland spot colors did print better than anything else we would try for a lot of colors.

    Since getting the S80 (which we love) we have faced a couple issues with how we handle this. We have been doing the same things for proofing and sending artwork to the print dept. But they don't have the spot colors to fall back on. So we find ourselves trying to match our output to our old Roland swatch books. We don't like this because the epson can print much nicer colors. So when a customer tells me on the phone that they want a nice burgundy or whatever color, I want to give them that, not a close match to what we used to be able to produce. Just feels like going backwards. But I also don't want to have to do a bunch of test prints all the time either. We've tried using a pantone book and swatch we have, and printed a pantone chart with the epson. This works, but not in love with it. Just so many colors to choose from, plus through some of our test printing we can get better colors than some of the pantones. I don't know maybe we just need to get used to it more?

    But what I'd ultimately like is this:

    To create a color pallet for illustrator that has spot colors that match to Oracals cut vinyl (or 3m/avery) colors and produce our best looking/closet match to the cut vinyls. And that these spot colors we create look reasonably close on screen so that we can use them for customer proofs and printing. This isn't as easy to do though without having something like the roland spot colors. Will require a lot of test printing. Have tried matching from the pantone chart, but seems that we can get better colors from our own tweaking than what that chart spit out.

    Anybody have a similar system? Better system? Suggestions?
     
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  2. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    The seemingly simple and innocent thread title and topic could be surprisingly deep, but for now...

    ...begs the questions:

    1) What color working space was used when submitting the file to the Epson?

    2) Do you know for sure if the RIP honored the profile?

    3) Going forward, since you're looking for "recipe" color values from input, can you keep your process consistent? (Your actual printing machine will, but operators will also need to be consistent.)
     
  3. Marie

    Marie Member

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    For printing a close match to Oracal cut vinyl colors, I downloaded the Illustrator swatches for Oracal 651 and 751 (https://www.orafol.com/en/europe/support). Our Mimaki JV-150 prints pretty spot-on when I set up an Illustrator file using those swatches.
     
  4. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    We have done this, but we found that the printed colors with their values don't really match up that well to the actual cut vinyl colors. With tweaking we can get them better or even an exact match.

    But if we are going to go through all the colors we want on a pallet and test print to our liking, then this certainly seems like a good place to start.

    I don't really know what more I'm trying to accomplish really? Just wondering what other shops do and maybe there is a better answer/system then what we are currently doing.
     
  5. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    1/2). We design in RGB and use onyx rip. I will check with the print tech tomorrow to see if the rip is honoring. This reminds me a another issue print tech brought up to me. He says that sometimes the rgb values will change on him when opening in the rip? We thought it might have something to do with wrong color spaces, we didn't ever seem to have that happen with versaworks/roland. So probably something to the rip settings or user error there?

    3) What I envision is creating one swatch pallet in illustrator that has all our "good colors," so the design side can hand over artwork to the print side without them having to interpret and make decisions on colors. Perhaps those colors in the pallet would be named spot colors that we create? That way the rip should handle them the same always?
     
  6. jimbug72

    jimbug72 Member

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    We use these as well for our Roland SP-540i and the results are close enough that we've haven't had a single customer comment on a difference when using cut vinyl paired with the printed vinyl.
     
  7. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    But how close are they actually when holding them side by side. I totally understand that customers mostly wouldn't notice... With some test printing we can get them a much better match. Just would rather not spend the time dialing in all these colors if there is a better way.
     
  8. jimbug72

    jimbug72 Member

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    Honestly it varies a bit from color to color as well with how much ink (fast or fine) but they are still pretty close. None are a perfect match but all that we have done so far when applied to the substrate has required closer scrutiny to notice any difference. That being said, I've not done a job where the cut vinyl actually touches the printed vinyl so there has been no exact side by side comparison on a finished job. When separated by the color of the substrate the difference in the colors has become mostly imperceptible, again depending on swatch color and print quality.
     
  9. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    Here's an example. Have a good customer, probably 50 vehicles per year, and lots of different signs/decals. This customer really is 4 or 5 business, all different names/logos but use the same colors. Colors are burgundy light gray and black. When we got this customer 8 or so years ago, they want to keep their logos consistent and same colors as the hundreds of vehicles/signs they already had. All of their stuff was done in layered cut vinyl, their previous sign guy didn't have a printer or outsource, did everything with cut vinyl. So we followed suit, at first, then when they started asking for things that were just stupid to do with cut vinyl, but needed to have "their colors" we started printing mot of their stuff. We did lots of test prints (no true roland spot color matches) to get pretty much identical match to the burgundy and gray. This wasn't easy to do really as grays printed like crap IMO without have light black ink in the mix. Either looked pinkish or greenish. So I think this is the reason I like being able to print exact (as can be) matches to a standard cut vinyl color swatch.
     
  10. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    Important to learn because it can determine how to proceed...

    You’re designing in an RGB working space but you need to know which RGB; 3 common RGB spaces are sRGB, Adobe RGB (1998), and ProPhoto RGB, however there are more which are not so common. Be sure not to use any monitor profile as the working space.

    Ultimately, I'm going to suggest you print and use the Pantone Coated.pdf file supplied by your Onyx RIP. That will provide a standard, comprehensive source to use for anyone, practically. From those choices of over 1, 000, you can cull just the ~64 Oracal (and any other) colors to create your custom palette(s).
     
  11. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    We are using sRGB color mode. Are there any settings in Onyx I need to pay attention to to ensure onyx is honoring this?
     
  12. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    The fact you're using sRGB is somewhat fortunate. RGB values you encounter from both Pantone Bridge and Oracal use sRGB as the color space, or at least they used to sometime ago. The downside to sRGB is that your current Epson printer has significantly more potential in some colors. Adobe RGB (1998) is thought by most to be more the general standard. However, even using Adobe RGB, the printer has yet more gamut. Shops reproducing fine art tend to use ProPhoto as their color space. Only future testing will tell you if you need to move over to a wider gamut space than sRGB. Just know your machine can use it.

    For your design files, be sure to save them with "embedded" profiles. Read the instructions from Onyx about color management settings. You must set the RIP to use (honor) input profiles. If a file does not have an embedded profile, the RIP setting will default to the profile it is told to use absent a profile. Usually, a prepress operator will make a visual, educated decision and embed an appropriate profile before sending the file to RIP.

    In the meantime, print the Pantone Coated.pdf file supplied by your Onyx RIP and compare it to the swatch book(s).
     
  13. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

    1,053
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    Aug 6, 2010
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    Awesome, thanks for the info. Definitely will test out the other color spaces.
     
  14. jimbug72

    jimbug72 Member

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    I guess I should also point out that we haven't tested all or even most of the colors to their vinyl counterpart. Actually it has only been with a few shades of blues, and greens. While I do use the color swatches with fair regularity it isn't done with matching in mind, just a simple go to for colors that should we, down the road, need to do something with cut vinyl there shouldn't be a vast difference in previous work. Grays are difficult so I could see a possibility for noticeable differences there.

    Side note: I started typing this a few hours ago and since I got back to this computer, I tested Silver Grey Metallic and Gold Metallic 651 swatches for a job we had set up to print and they are pretty far apart from the actual 651 vinyl colors so there are definitely variables from color to color.
     
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