Greater Spokane Valley Chamber needed a podium sign for the unveiling of their new logo design, with White and colored inks on black PVC sintra, this one looks great, custom signs spokane

How to Get Perfect Color with Custom Signs Spokane

Greater Spokane Valley Chamber needed a podium sign for the unveiling of their new logo design, with White and colored inks on black PVC sintra, this one looks great, custom signs spokane

Podium sign for Greater Spokane Valley with spot-on logo colors

As a high volume producer of custom signs Spokane, we have to make sure that color translates correctly from a customer’s vision to design, all the way to print.  Because color varies from device to device throughout the production process, there are several basic color rules that need to be respected in order to get the end result just right.  I sat down with Signs for Success Designer Will Oakley and Production Manager Denise Gillit to get their take on the importance of color in print.

Color Basics

There are a few color basics that every customer should understand when beginning the sign buying process.  The colors we see on computer screens will never be exactly the same as colors we see in print.  This is because the colors we see on computers, digital cameras, televisions and other screen-based technology is produced by RGB (Red, Green Blue) light while the colors on printed materials are produced by light reflecting off of CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) inks.

“When you see a color on your computer screen it is made up of RGB (Red, Green, Blue).  When we print a color we print CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black).  These colors translate differently from one format to another,” Will explained.

What would you want customers to know about color?

Denise: Different colors mean different things to different people.  If I say green, you may think of grass but what I meant was apple green.  If I say blue do you think of Dodger blue (05) or Pepsi blue (sapphire)?

Will: Color varies Printer to printer, screen to screen, material to material.  Even the terminology for color varies.  Like Denise said, when you tell me you want Plum that could mean any number of 30 shades of purple and magenta.  The other challenge we have with color is monitor calibration.  I could send you a proof for production and the red could be amazing on my screen but when you look at it on your screen it may be washed out and pink.  This is affected by the calibration of your monitor i.e.: the brightness, hues, contrast and even monitor type (LCD, LED, or CRT) all play a part in changing the colors you’re viewing.

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Custom Dry Fly Distilling bottle boxes on raw cedar

What kinds of things are important to consider when selecting colors for print?

Denise: What background color is your print going on?  Your colors can look different when they are put up against certain colors.  Lighting is also very important; is it fluorescent, incandescent, white white, blue white, red white?  All of these affect the final outcome.

Will: Denise covered most of this one.  Placement of the object and its surrounding environment are key.  The light reference the color will actually be viewed in is critical.  The laminate we place on the material can possibly shift the color, so it’s important to know if the customer picked the color from a laminated sample or an un-laminted sample.  “What is your long term marketing vision?” would be another good question.  Is this going to be the only car wrap you do?  Or do you want the banner we print next week to match your car wrap perfectly?

We print CMYKw (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, white)…do we have other colors like Light Cyan that we also print with?

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Signs for Success triple strike backlit sign test

Denise: On the HP Designjet 9000 we use CMYKcm.  We can use that on the HP FB500, but we prefer to use white.  Light Cyan (c) and Light Magenta (m) are taken out of the HP FB500 so that we may run White ink, allowing us to print on clear and non-white substrates.

Will: Denise nailed this one.

To sum things up, we can hit literally thousands of colors with CMYK printing.  Even if the color in a proof looks slightly off on your computer screen, to make sure we’ve got the color right, we will do test prints before printing an entire job.  That way, we make sure the color is perfect, and if it’s not, we can tweak the color by adding or subtracting one or more of the key components.  It’s important to check the sample in the environment it will ultimately be viewed in to make sure the color is still perfect in the correct lighting.

White ink can also make a big difference.  When we aren’t printing on a bright white surface, colors look different.  This may happen with slightly off-white materials, finished or unfinished wood, or colored or even black materials.  In such a case, we would print a layer of white ink first, then run the material through again to lay down color, thus achieving the same color as if we were printing on a pure white surface.

Once we’ve achieved your perfect color, we keep that information on file so we can match colors with future jobs.  Whether you’re looking for vehicle wraps, banners, or even business cards, we can make sure your marketing strategy is consistent across all forms of signage and large format graphics.  Get perfect color on custom signs Spokane; contact us for a free quote today!

How well do YOU see color?

FACT: 1 out of 255 women and 1 out of 12 men have some form of color vision deficiency.  Take the Online Color Test Challenge, based on the official FM100 Hue Test by X-Rite.