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Why a Color Proof Is Important for Maintaining Brand Consistency

February 2, 2024 | Design

Some brands are unmistakable. Just a hint of their color or logo tells you everything you need to know. Whether it’s McDonald’s golden arches or John Deere’s tractor green (with yellow highlights), color and branding go hand in hand. Little wonder then that designers and printers rely on a color proof to correct any mistakes in a design. They understand that the right shade can make a world of difference. But with most designs now rendered digitally, guaranteeing color fidelity in printed materials is an ongoing challenge. 

Challenges in Ensuring Color Fidelity From Digital Designs

The colors you see on the screen aren’t necessarily the color you’d see when printed. Different print materials and inks can subtly alter a specific shade, or the device’s technical limitations prevent you from seeing the color accurately. 

Digital designs created on computers, tablets, or other devices have their own color rendering capabilities. Depending on the device, it can be extremely limited compared to the physical possibilities. Even the screen itself poses problems – brightness, contrast, color temperature, and color profiles can all be customized by users, leading to further variation. What looks vibrant on one screen may appear dull or distorted on another. 

Printers then translate this design to physical materials like paper, fabric, plastic, or metal. These materials do not display color the same or even use the same type of ink. Ink absorption and light reflections fundamentally alter the appearance. 

Maintaining color fidelity, therefore, is an ongoing problem – especially for brands with an iconic color palette. 

Practical Aspects of A Color Proof

Solving the challenges listed above means dealing with the practical aspects of a digital color proof. Whether you’re creating a new magazine layout or preparing artwork for print, understanding certain aspects of color fidelity is critical. These include:

  • sRGB vs. CMYK. sRGB is the standard color model for digital displays and online content. Consisting of red, green, and blue, it ensures a uniform color reproduction regardless of the device. You’ll often see that image editing software codes colors using these three values. CMYK, on the other hand, isn’t additive but subtractive – it creates colors by subtracting light from white. Made of cyan, magenta, yellow, and key/black, it’s primarily used in printing. Designers and printers must, therefore, convert accurately from RGB to CMYK despite the latter having a narrower color selection.
  • Device Color Calibration. Monitors and printers, in particular, require careful calibration to ensure accuracy in a color proof. Monitor calibration involves adjusting settings to match a known standard, while printers require calibration to produce consistent colors. Printers are often fed profiles to guide the printer. 
  • Choosing Correct Color Profiles. Digital design software allows you to embed color profiles in your file. As mentioned, sRGB is standard for digital displays, while CMYK is used in print. Inform the printing service about which color profiles you’ve used. 
  • Effect of Printing Substrates on Color Output. Different printing substrates (materials) can significantly alter the final color. For example, printing on glossy paper will produce brighter, more vibrant colors compared to matte paper. Metallic substrates, meanwhile, can reflect more light or produce unusual visual effects. 

Integrating Color Proofing Into Design and Production Workflows

The pursuit of color perfection in designs requires a rethink about how you structure your design and production workflows. Armed with creative vision, designers often lay the foundation for a project’s aesthetic appeal. However, translating that vision into tangible color reality requires continuous collaboration with printers and clients.

The problem most companies and agencies have is trying to involve all the relevant stakeholders. That’s why a reliable color-proofing platform is necessary. Using such a platform, designers can upload a color proof, send requests to other parties, and receive knowledgeable, actionable comments.

Printers, for example, bring a wealth of color expertise. Their knowledge of color profiles, substrates, and printing processes is invaluable. They can comment on how a specific shade will appear on a metallic substrate versus a fabric cushion. Clients, meanwhile, understand their brand better than anyone. Asking for their opinion on a color proof ensures designers align their creative choices with client expectations.

Color proofing serves as a common language for these different stakeholders. It unites creative vision, technical expertise, and client expectations, resulting in designs that not only look great on screen but also reproduce flawlessly in print.

Recent Advancements in Color Proofing Technology

Color proofing technology has come a long way from the 1990s CRT monitor. Today, modern technology allows for greater visualization of colors, but also the ability to share with other professionals anywhere in the world. Here are some of the most recent advancements:

  1. Better File Management. Enhanced file management methods in color proofing ensure that color profiles integrate the same design between different design software and printing devices. That helps prevent color inconsistencies. Moreover, designers can work in different file formats, be it JPEG or PDF, knowing that the proofing software will function the same.
  2. Advanced Color Matching. New technology automatically fine-tunes colors and minimizes the need for manual adjustments. AI-powered correction tools achieve highly precise color measurement and correction, resulting in color-accurate final outputs. 
  3. Cloud-Based Feedback Platforms. Real-time collaboration, version control and tracking, and efficient feedback are just some of the benefits of modern proofing platforms. Designers, printers, and clients can simultaneously review design, provide feedback, or approve color proofs remotely, eliminating geographical constraints and speeding up the approval process. 

Trust Ashore for Color Accurate Proofing

Ashore isn’t just another proofing platform. No matter your file type, you can upload your designs, ask stakeholders for approval, and maintain accurate version control. Best of all, Ashore tracks everything – no more confusing email chains.

Designers and printers often ask what type of color profile to use for Ashore. We recommend always using RGB color profiles when uploading to the platform. That being said, Ashore automatically rasterizes PDFs to display the colors correctly. Ready to get started? Sign up for free to use Ashore today.

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