Expanding the Possibilities of Color
Extended color printing could be the next best thing to the eye of the beholder in the package-printing industry.
PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING, THE exact nature of color may be in dispute forever. As far as brand owners and the package and label printers who work with them are concerned, however, color is a concrete, measurable reality and the most critical component of print quality. If the job of the packaging or label designers is to create shelf appeal and ensure brand recognition, the job of packaging and label printers is to lock in those attributes by reproducing those designs as faithfully, efficiently, and affordably as possible.
Any technology that can make this happen without incurring the expense of additional prepress work or multiple passes through the press will be of special value to profit-minded printers and their price-sensitive customers. Extended color printing, which is said to expand the color gamut beyond CMYK and still deliver a quality product on time and on budget, is said to be one such technology.
Why CMYK won't do
The 4-color printing process known as "CMYK" requires four separations in cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to produce the corresponding printing plates. The fact that the CMYK color space is significantly smaller than the color space visible to the human eye underscores the limitations of 4-color process printing in color-critical applications like fine art and packaging. Violets, greens and oranges, for example, are very difficult to match using 4-color process. Because CMYK has a limited color gamut, it can simulate only about 60 percent of Pantone colors.
Extended color technologies enable the printing of a wider range of colors by adding custom inks to the standard CMYK ink set or by using higher densities of commercially available inks to achieve intense, highly saturated (read: accurate and eye-catching) effects. Nearly 90 percent of Pantone colors reportedly can be simulated with the use of extended gamut printing.