Inking Outside the CMYK Realm
A look at two ink systems for HiFi printing.
By Terri McConnell, Prepress Editor
"IN 1903, THE Wright brothers made their first engine-powered flight. Sixty-six years later, we put men on the moon. If you compare the evolution of flight to the evolution of color in print, we're still in the dark ages. Four printing plates and four cans of ink." So begins Matthew Bernasconi's call for a revolution in ink.
Bernasconi, founder of the Australian company Opaltone Graphic Solutions, is a passionate evangelist for what is known as HiFi printing—the use of a six- or seven-color ink system to replace the four-color (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) system that has been our basic recipe for image reproduction since it was invented in 1859.
The most well-known of the HiFi printing ink systems was developed and patented in 1995 by Pantone, the 40-year old company that brought us the ubiquitous Pantone Matching System (PMS). For years, CEO Richard Herbert worked with Pantone's color scientists to devise an expanded ink system capable of accurately reproducing more of the design colors found in PMS swatch books than could be reproduced with the CMYK ink system. They eventually settled on a six-color system that Herbert named Hexachrome. The Hexachrome ink set is comprised of black, orange, green, and re-formulations of process cyan, magenta, and yellow.
Says Amy Fannon, technical project manager, "The best way to see the impact of Hexachrome is to look at the books." She's referring to Pantone's Solid-to-Process and Solid-to-Hexachrome Guides. According to Fannon, printers can expect to match fewer than 50% of PMS colors using standard CMYK inks. With Hexachrome inks, they can accurately simulate over 90% of the colors found in the PMS swatch books.
Fannon, and her colleague Ken Wagner, are key members of Pantone's Hexachrome product development and technical support team and are currently heavily focused on bringing the message of HiFi printing to the label and packaging markets. Our industry is ripe with presses—both offset and flexo—with six, eight, and ten print stations. Wagner says there are distinct economic advantages for running Hexachrome on these presses when the system is adopted as a mainstream process rather than as a novelty. Because of the increased color gamut of the six-color system, color match can be achieved without using special spot color inks on a wider range of jobs. No special inks means fewer wash ups and more opportunities to gang up shorter run jobs on the same substrate. (Note: Hexachrome Magenta ink is more expensive than standard magenta because it's made with rhodamine pigment rather than rubine.)