Swatch Your Step - Radiant

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Swatch Your Step

Today I am going to address color and how much of a point of frustration it can be for clients and designers alike.

Swatch Your StepAllow me to shed some light on the topic, a warm bluish greeny kind of light. Not quite an aqua light, more like a sea-foam color. Do you know what I mean? It’s close to the color of the blue cotton candy they sell at the fair, but not quite. Can you see it? Really, it’s the color of a fresh breeze on that first warm day in spring. Closer? When I really think about it, it’s a dead match to the color of the stones I have in the bottom of my aquarium at home that I bought from a villager in a small market when I was in Cayman Islands. I’ll tell you what: I have a picture of my aquarium as my computer’s desktop. I’ll take a screen grab of that and send it to you. Will that help?


Obviously I have exaggerated for effect, but there are instances where something like that isn’t too far from reality when it comes to color matching. Let’s set the record straight, color is interpretive. Different colors make all of us feel different ways, therefore we are all going to use and explain color differently. If only there were some kind of common language we could all speak that would keep clients, designers and most importantly printers on the same playing field. It would be great if there was some kind of book we could all refer to, to take the guess work out of this. Now I know your thinking “That sounds like witch craft, burn him!”, but such a book does exist! It’s not so much a book of spells but rather a book of recipes. They are called Pantone Color Books (or swatch books) and they are the end all, be all in the print universe. Essentially they are printed samples of colors along with the formulas that make the final color.

Owning one of these books, or sets of books, is the only way to truly know what a color will look like on paper. Sure your software has these formulas built in, but do not trust those to know what your final printed piece will look like. There are too many variables at play to trust your software. To name a few monitor and printer calibration and lighting in the room are the biggest. Also, for the record, holding an object up to the monitor for matching is not a wise move either. The only way to be sure is to have a printed sample, and that’s what Pantone swatch books provide you with. For example, that mess I explained in the intro would simply be stated at 318C. Wow, that was easy. If you had a Pantone book on your end you could look inside and see that I’m not crazy.

If you do a lot of printing and the color has to be bang on, don’t go out and buy 12 miles of extension cord so you can drive your monitor to the print shop, consider making a much wiser investment and purchase yourself a pantone color book. It will potentially save you a lot of money in reprints, or at the very least a lot of frustration and anxiety. After all, we all know what color of anxiety is, and it ain’t pretty (4505C).