Matching Colors for Trade Show Exhibits

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Categories: Artwork Guidelines, Trade Show Tips

For most companies, getting the correct color printed that matches your brand identity is important.

For some companies it’s critical.

Think about Coca Cola: If their trademark red color is just a hint off, it will be DOA (Dead on Arrival).

So, the purpose of this article is to explain color accuracy with trade show exhibits, so you are satisfied with the outcome.

Steps You Can Take to Assure Color Accuracy

So you want to ensure color accuracy in your printed materials? But How?

As you are aware, color plays a critical role in trade show exhibits.

It not only helps to identify brands, but it also draws attention to your booth to attract attendees.

But what extra steps can be done to assure color accuracy?

Option #1 PMS Color Match

The first option is to do a PMS (Pantone Matching System) color match. Pantone is the industry standard for matching up the millions of different colors into a universal range of colors that can be referenced.

These Pantone colors are easily accessible in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator to locate and find the color selection that is closest to the desired result. Your company may already have a palette with pre-defined PMS colors as part of its brand identity package so make sure to use that if you have it.

Because Large Format Printing ‘interprets’ a Pantone color with a mix of colors, it usually gets very close but its not always perfect.

The Color Match option is an extra step to make sure it prints correctly from the PMS callout color to CMYK accurately.

It is available for spot colors ONLY (a spot color is a single, solid color as opposed to a gradient or other color mix)

The cost to Color Match is $45 per color and is done by printing a small sample of your final artwork and then literally matching that color up to a Pantone Color Book.

Once the color is verified or corrected, the full version of your artwork is printed with that matched color, finished, and then shipped.

This adds about 1 extra day to the production time and we may need a layered file (native file) to complete this.

Option #2 Print a Hard Proof

The only downside to the Color Match is that you still don’t get to see the final result in person until it ships and arrives to you.

This brings us to the other option which is to print a “Hard Proof”. This is also an extra paid service where we print a small sample on the actual material and ship it to you in advance for approval.

Example of a Hard Proof

If you have enough time between now and your needed in-hand date this is 100% the best way to assure color accuracy.

This takes it one step further by making sure that you, the customer, are happy with the results before the full job is printed.

A Hard Proof adds anywhere from 2-5 extra days onto production time, so be sure to give yourself lots of extra time if going down this route.

But Do I Even Need These Extra Steps When Placing an Order?

“Do I even need these extra steps when placing an order? I just want to submit my order and move on to other tasks.”

For most of our customers, a simple digital proof is enough to make sure everything will print as expected.

Our printers follow the generally accepted print guidelines and are calibrated to ensure color accuracy. This has gotten even better as the technology surrounding printing has improved over the years.

That being said, there are so many variables such as how the artwork was setup, the material being printed on, and the print process itself.

Often times we are looking at colors on our screens which aren’t always color-corrected or accurate monitors and mostly use RGB and not CMYK which makes a huge difference in how the colors are perceived.

This can in some cases make a color appear “close” but not perfect.

For our discerning customers where brand is of the utmost importance, the color matching steps above are for you.

I would just encourage you to allow for several extra days, so we have enough time built in especially if you are planning on receiving a Hard Proof before the final production is completed.

Other Considerations

There a couple of other things to consider:

#1 Backlit Displays

Backlit display graphics are different and do not come with guarantees regarding color accuracy.

As mentioned above, there are a lot of variables with just a basic non-backlit material.

Once you add backlit to the mix, it makes things almost infinitely more complex because of the lighting and how it interacts with the material, color, etc.

We find that making your specific color backlit really amplifies it! So it may look a little bit different, but will obviously appear different to the eye than any non-backlit assets you might be comparing it to.

#2 Environment Lighting

How your colors on your trade show exhibit also have a lot to do with the environment such as a well-lit section of a trade show floor vs a poorly lit section in the convention hall.

The optimal environment is natural lighting, which is rarely found in a convention center, so just something else to be aware of.

We hope you found this article interesting and helpful as you decide if taking an extra step and spending a little extra money will be worth the outcome!

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