The EXTENDED GAMUT Advantage for Printers
The following post was submitted by Color 2015 sponsor, X-Rite Pantone.
Author: Mark Gundlach, Solutions Architect, X-Rite Pantone
PANTONE® Spot Colors have always been the best way to achieve brand colors, but they’re not always feasible or affordable. With the introduction of the EXTENDED GAMUT 7-color printing process, Pantone is giving printers and converters a way to determine how closely seven-color printing (CMYK+OGV) can achieve PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM® Colors.
Why Extended Gamut?
By incorporating Orange, Green and Violet PANTONE XG Base Inks with the traditional Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK) process colors in a 7-color printing process, you can achieve a much broader range of vibrant colors than traditional four-color process without the need to mix custom inks or wash up between press runs.
The EXTENDED GAMUT Guide provides 1,729 seven-color simulations of PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM Colors printed on coated stock. Each color is matched with an in-line aqueous coating, created with a maximum of three Base Ink combinations, and is optimized to be viewed under D50 lighting (5000°).
How does it work?
The PANTONE EXTENDED GAMUT Guide can be used as a visual reference to determine when you can accurately reproduce a solid PANTONE Color using CMYK + PANTONE XG Orange, Green, and Violet (OGV) Inks. Each color is named with its corresponding PANTONE Number and an XGC suffix.
- Select the desired PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM Color from a current PLUS SERIES FORMULA or Color Bridge Guide.
- Using the same page number in the EXTENDED GAMUT Guide, locate the corresponding PANTONE Color. You will see the closest 7-color process match and its screen tint percentages.
- Compare both guides side-by-side. Since the colors bleed off page edges, it’s easy to visually evaluate color differences.
- If the PANTONE Extended Gamut color is not a visually acceptable match, the color should remain specified as a solid.
- When the PANTONE Extended Gamut color appears adequate, print using those inks.
The benefits of 7-color printing
Demands in the industry have made it even more difficult to print packaging using CMYK alone. Although it’s the most economical printing process, it provides a very limited gamut of color, and even in the best conditions can only hit about half of the PantonePLUS colors. There’s just no comparison in color vibrancy between CMYK and spot color inks.
To hit special colors, many printers choose to add spot color inks to their CMYK process. Spots provide the best quality, but they’re also expensive, increase makeready time, contribute to large ink inventories, and are cumbersome for short runs. And what happens to the extra ink you don’t use?
Above: Extended Gamut printing provides a larger palette of colors for reproduction than you can get from CMYK alone. In this graphic, the smaller area shows the range of colors in CMYK printing, while the larger area shows the range of colors that can be produced with CMYKOGV.
With Extended Color Gamut (ECG) printing, you can achieve a good visual match for approximately 90% of spot colors without color mixing. When used with photographic images, it can greatly enhance the saturated colors, especially those in the areas of Violet, Green, and Orange.
Another advantage of ECG is the ability to gang up jobs on the same plate set that would normally require different spot color inks. This helps meet today’s requirements of shorter print runs for smaller just-in-time inventories.
Printers can also achieve less downtime and better press utilization. Once you load the seven ink colors, you only need to change the plates between jobs. The same inks stay in the press job after job, meaning fewer washups and shorter makeready between jobs.
The CMYK inks conform to the ISO ink and print standards that are already in use for offset, flexo, and gravure printing, and the Orange, Green, and Violet inks are the existing Pantone base inks that your ink vendor is already using.
For spot color simulations, properly separated files will use one to three of the ink colors. There are several prepress solutions that support 7-color extended gamut separations, and in packaging, Esko Equinox is one popular example. Equinox can also perform spot-to-process conversions if a file was designed using spot colors.
Seven-color process is actually more stable because 4-color process builds from colors that are very far apart on the color wheel. Even a slight shift in density or strength of any ink color can shift the resulting build color quite a lot. When using seven inks, colors are built from up to three inks that are closer together on the color wheel. If one ink shifts in strength or density, the impact won’t be as great. Since the stability and consistency of 7-color process is so high, you can set better expectations for achievable color before you even start printing.
What are people saying?
The early numbers are very encouraging; 25–50% of printers using ECG reported saving time during makeready because they’re only changing plates, not inks. They also have more opportunity to combine runs and take on more short run jobs.
More productivity, reduced waste, and less downtime means increased profitability, and consistent color results means happier customers who are more likely to come back for more.