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Optimised Color Gamut Increases Eco-Efficiency

Solvent-based inks on plastic film (left) and water-based inks on uncoated paper (right) compared to FOGRA39

How well does flexo printing comply to FOGRA39 color space and how to reach a larger, expanded gamut? When implementing CMYK and ECG process printing, it’s important to know the influencing factors. With this in mind there are many ways to maximize the color gamut.

The above presented image pair is a good reminder how flexographic printing can meet FOGRA39. On the left side, the plastic films can meet it very well, while printing on uncoated paper (right) results in a significantly smaller gamut. The red area describes the FOGRA39.

What is FOGRA39 and why it’s important to reach it?

FOGRA39 is a characterisation data set describing a CMYK color space in CIE XYZ and CIELAB defined by Fogra institute and it’s used to make the comparable ECI ISO Coated v2 ICC-profile. These are representing color spaces of general offset printing for coated paper based on the ISO 12647-2 standard. For example, it is used to convert RGB images for CMYK printing, but for packaging printing it is also essential to define the in-gamut spot colors e.g. Pantone PMS correctly.

The difference between the characterisation data and the separation table is often unclear. The Fogra data set describes the actual printing behaviour while the follow up ICC profile tables deal with gamut mapping and color separation. Fogra creates a reference characterisation data set by combining multiple data sources into one data set to provide a basis for the averaged color or transform it from “A” to “B” in an independent color space. The color separation table is used to specify how color is formed from its components under certain circumstances. Accordingly, the Fogra reference data sets can be used by other parties such as the European Color Initiative (ECI) to create ICC profiles that the printing industry typically uses for device dependent color separation. All the current Fogra standards can be found here.

Achieving the FOGRA39 gamut in flexographic printing means that the profiled digital proof closely corresponds the printed result. For this reason, there is no need for brand owners to make an on-site press acceptance. In sum, this is a benefit for all parties, including better sustainability for the environment.

Many factors affect the COLOR gamut

By tweaking key process attributes, different color gamut areas can be improved. In short, this includes the optimisation of anilox rollers, inks, mounting tapes and clichés. In fact, there are several variables in each of these areas that can be optimised. Finding the right combination requires a great deal of experience and in-depth knowledge of the process printing.

In addition to CMYK gamut, it’s good to remember that only a limited number of the PMS colors used in packaging printing can be simulated with CMYK process inks without perceptible color changes (delta E). Hence, there is a great need to expand the color gamut with additional primary inks such as orange, green and violet to achieve the Expanded Color Gamut (ECG). This makes the packaging printing more efficient and sustainable.

Do you want to optimise the color gamut and implement an ECG method? Please contact me and let’s make the packaging printing more eco-efficient!