Hemlock’s Colour Matching Services

Have you ever ordered something only to have the product not match the expectations set from the online or printed photograph? From a variety of colour profiles to a variety of lighting sources, it can be a challenge for some of our clients to capture the accurate colour of their products. Here is a case study showcasing how Hemlock’s expertise in colour matching has lead to high quality printed catalogues that capture the true product colour. The technical details described are courtesy of Hemlock’s VP of Prepress, Peter Madliger.

It is critical for catalogues that the clothing printed match the colour of the garments being sold. The colour matching process begins in Prepress. Sometimes our Prepress department looks more like a clothing warehouse: one recent project consisted of 460 clothing items supplied to us for colour matching!

Colour MatchingIn some catalogue layouts, clothing is displayed on models, in stacks of an assortment of colours, or as a feature item on one page. The photography of the clothing items can be a tricky business, as many unforeseen imperfections can show up in the images. Unwanted folds and wrinkles in the clothing, flaws in the stitching, missing labels, imperfections in the skin of the models wearing the items and the print-buyers’ biggest concern: distorted fabric colours caused by the photography process. The retouching and colour-matching tasks for a clothing catalogue can take hours of technical Photoshop work by our skilled Prepress operators.

Sometimes designers decide to represent the garments in the catalogues without using actual clothing items, thereby eliminating or minimizing the need for photography. Illustrations defining the outlines and shapes of clothing are produced with Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) drawings. The drawings are filled with tints of colours representing the garment fabrics.

For these CAD-designed clothing catalogues, Hemlock is instrumental in helping the graphic designers achieve accurate colour reproductions of the clothing fabrics. Hemlock receives the actual fabric swatches from the garment manufacturer. We measure the colour of these swatches with a spectrophotometer, extracting a “Lab” value. These “Lab” numbers can be compared to a GPS coordinate, but instead of calculating a global position, the Lab numbers point to a location on a three-dimensional colour cube. Our prepress department converts this data and provides the designers with recipes of the correct CMYK mixtures for printing.

Hemlock provides proofs to the client of the measured and processed fabric colours. We have two methods for showing the colour. We can show a single proof of each swatch measured. Alternatively, we can show a grid with small colour proofs that vary slightly in colour. We call this grid a “Swatchmeister”. It gives the client multiple choices of recipes for each swatch measured.

Colour Matching - Fabric

The graphic designer will use the approved recipes of the colour swatches to render the CAD drawings and by the time the catalogue is ready to hit the press, the printed garment illustrations will match the colours of the actual clothing fabrics precisely!

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