Digital Magazine

Design & Color: Part II of II

In last month's column we discussed calibrating the production workflow. The primary purpose of calibrating the production workflow is simply to ensure that the final package is true to the original design. Easier said than done, especially with increasingly compressed times to market and design lifecycles.

A fully integrated workflow is required in which each step along the way is defined and managed. In the opinion of this writer, the overall design and color workflow, and participants therein, should be supervised and directed by the brand manager for the consumer product company. In effect, this person is the “owner” of the process.

Collaborative efforts are required from several companies to ensure an agile and responsive supply chain. In a sense, individual businesses no longer compete as stand-alone entities but as part of a supply chain. This is network competition. So the role of the brand manager is to control the quality and timeliness of the end product and also to master the costs within the supply chain.

There is no one specific workflow, so each has to be charted and understood. An example is given in the chart below.

One objective is to be able to move original art to press approval quickly and without rework along the way. Another equally important objective is to be able to run the job on the press with minimal waste and at high press speeds. Both objectives require calibration of all the steps in the process. One way to do this, perhaps the best way, is to work backward in the process flow.

At step 5, a characterized press works with a fixed ink delivery system and a color space defined by the pigments used in the dispenser inks. In step 4 the plates and cylinders are made by the graphics house in accordance with the press characterization. At step 3 a contract proof is made, most often on the actual production substrate. If a Heaford flexo proof press is used, then the actual anilox roller and production inks should be used.

If DuPont Waterproof method is used, an applicator bar calibrated to the press ink delivery rate should be used. Also, the pigments used in the Waterproof can be matched by color index number with the dispenser pigments used at the press. If a digital contract proof is used, the operating color space would be preset based on dispenser ink drawdowns.

At step 2 the ink supplier matches the original art with production dispenser inks used on the press. Very often the original art colors are specified in the Pantone system. The ink supplier has to translate the Pantone target into a match on the actual production substrate, using the production dispenser inks and a proofing method that correlates to the production press.

In summary, each step in the production workflow is calibrated to the press. Each step hands off information and materials to the next step to allow the final press approval to be achieved without rework.

As you can imagine, this does require upfront planning, coordination, and management, and once again it seems the brand manager needs to fill this role.

David Argent has 30+ years of experience in the converting industry. He specializes in process analysis and improvement with particular emphasis on ink and coating design and performance. Contact him at 636/391-8180; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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