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The printing industry wastes too much time on colour

There is too much obsession with colour in the printing industry

I may be setting myself up for a lynching by printers here, but does colour matter as much as the printing industry says it does? Time and time again I have been approached by printing companies that make a big deal of their superb quality and excellent colour reproduction.

There seems to be a belief in certain sectors of the industry that you can make a lot more profit from high quality colour print. There are a few areas where this is true: for instance, fine art businesses and auction houses are certainly prepared to pay a premium to get colour exactly right. However, the majority of buyers are never going to pay more for premium colour management. And printing companies can rarely give their clients what they are looking for. Here’s why:

Print professionals get print wrong

This article highlights an interesting test where people were shown identical print samples. One out of 4 people claimed to see a difference where none existed. This ratio rose to 1 in 3 when the samples were shown to people from the printing industry. Maybe some print professionals are not as good as they claim they are. 

However, this isn’t just about printing companies: it’s about their customers too.

The average buyer doesn’t care about colour

Most people who buy print simply want good quality print with commercially acceptable colour. When supermarkets are buying doordrop leaflets in six-figure quantities, having brand matching colour is not at the top of their minds. Many charities want their marketing to look cheap, not colour perfect.

I once had a printer contact me to tell me they could print one of my magazines at a much higher level of colour quality. The magazine was all about compute programming: it was full of screenshots of code. There was no commercial justification to spend more on better quality. The printing industry needs to see colour quality in commercial terms.

Some buyers do care about colour. But often they care more than they should. I won’t even mention the story about the buyer who press passed even though he was colour blind… Nevertheless, brands see colour consistency as more important than perhaps they should. Here’s the reason:

Here’s an article that shows that the majority of consumers do not notice colour variations. Even if they do, it has little effect on their purchasing. Brands should be far more worried about promotions run by the competition rather than colour consistency. They should also be more concerned with stock levels. People are far less worried by issues such as damaged packaging.

Consumers are not influenced by colour consistency

If colour really mattered then they should be talking to stores about making sure that all items are shown under consistent, colour managed light.

So is colour management a waste of time?

All printers have to manage colour to standard tolerances. That is expected by the buyer. But going beyond this is rarely necessary. 

Here’s an interesting press pass situation:

“I used to have a client who’d take running sheets and chuck them on the floor to visualise what the colour would be like on someone’s doormat. Not considering: – the polywrap they were covered in for mailing – the 50% chance they would land cover side up – lighting in people homes is different. – juxtaposition will have an impact depending on the colour of the carpet they land on. Colour is so subjective. I honestly can’t think of a perfect solution for it.”

How does one manage a colour situation like this?

Here’s one last thought

When was the last time you heard of a printing company going out of business because their colour wasn’t good enough?

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Download your free copy of 10 Common Print Selling Errors And What To Do About Them (worth £19/$29) right now

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