Pantone Mixing for Textiles: Color Specific and Trade Marked Colors
By TJ Stepper
When working with, and mixing specific colors for printing, additional factors must be considered:
- Customer Requirement of Color Accuracy
- Is it a trademarked color?
- Color of the garment?
- To Under base or not underbase?
Mixing inks is, in itself, an art form. Different mixing systems have different formulas and those differ from Pantones suggestions as well. Even the most thought out mixing system will have to be tweaked to fit one’s specific needs. Below are the steps on how to start mixing custom inks and pantones:
- First, you start by determining if your client wants a specific PMS number, or a color “close enough”. Close enough will allow you the latitude to steer your customer to standard ink colors you may already have on your shelf. This saves you both time and money. If there is a specific PMS color the customer is wanting, the next question is if it is a trademarked color. If it is, your diligence in mixing it will be key. I will cover this a little later. If it is not, you can advise the customer you will mix the color to as close as you can to the solid pantone book. It is important to get a customer proof signature, especially with PMS color matching. This way you cover all your bases and the customer cannot recant due to a color shift on press.
- Next, determine the color of the garment. The color of the garment will alter how one sees the colors that are placed on top of it. See Color Theory. Our perception of color, in relationship to adjacent colors, can radically shift the color mixed even though the ink has not changed at all. When mixing a specific PMS number it is critical to consider the context in which it will be printed in. ie the shirt color.
(Same Pantone, Different Result: Comparisons Below)
PMS colors that are mixed to match the swatches in the Pantone Solid Coated book are actually being matched for printing onto a white garment. This is because the book itself is printed onto white paper. When printing on white this should be fine, but printing onto colors it becomes a little more work to match that color. If you under base with white, then you are fine with a standard, or formula mix, as it will keep the color integrity.
However, going onto a colored shirt directly you may need to alter the formula in order to get the color to visually match the color called out. This is where it is important to clarify with your customer as to the requirement of matching the color exactly. For example, NIKE uses PMS 1655 Orange as NIKE Orange. It is required the color “look” like PMS 1655 regardless of substrate. In a shop I used to work at we had 20 different buckets of ink called PMS 1665 NIKE. Each one mixed to a specific substrate, everything from a brown wood box to a navy blue t-shirt. The background color alters the perception of the orange requiring us to tweak the color we are mixing so the printed color matches 1655 exactly. This can be a daunting task if not approached correctly.
The key is to Test, test, test. Most printers either mix by eye or with a mixing system. A few will have manufacturers or suppliers mix the inks for them. Although this saves you time it can be costly and if you are printing on anything other than white, the color may be off on the final product. When mixing, it is best to start by mixing the color to match your Pantone book. This will give you a solid base to begin with. Then, print and dry the ink on the shirt color you will actually be using. This will tell you which direction to go to match the color visually- Tweak the color and test again. This process can take a while but save you uncomfortable explanations of color theory with the customer after the fact.