This is part of a multi-post story on flexography for the designer. You can read more of my previous posts on the subject here, and here.

Everybody loves colour! The right colour choices can make or break a design. It can also drive your production guys nuts.

As mentioned in my last post, bright, non polluted colours will print the best. Dark, or muted colours won’t work as well. And light colours will often look quite a bit darker on press.

Very light colours (i.e. colours where all the components are less than say 20 percent) will most likely get much darker. Flexo presses are notorious for dot gain, but most printers should have their presses fingerprinted and will be able to compensate for most of the dot gain on press. The dots on the lighter end of the spectrum usually cannot be compensated for and will still gain on press. This makes nice delicate clouds or light pastel colours hard to reproduce on press. Check with your printer though, as sometimes this can be fixed by substituting a Pantone Spot colour into your design, rather than printing it process.  But very light colours are usually a hassle.

And now a quick note regarding PANTONE colours.

Most designers are VERY familiar with PANTONE colours. Choosing spot colours from the PANTONE spot guide is usually second nature to most designers. What they don’t tell you though is most of those handy-dandy swatch books are for Offset printing. Not Flexo. There are quite a variety of different kind of inks (and solvents) used in flexo printing, not to mention a wide variety of different substrates you can print on. All of this can affect the colour of the ink. Drastically. Or even the availability of said ink. You may even find odd restrictions regarding the use of specialty inks such as fluorescent inks. You may also find when dealing with your printer that they may have a smaller selection of inks that they would rather print from.

You may notice a trend here. I keep on mentioning that you should be going over EVERYTHING with your printer. Flexo printing is a finicky beast, quite unlike more traditional printing. The more information you can get from your printer, the better off you will be in the long run.

There are other considerations when it comes to colour choice, but that will be better covered in my next post, when I talk about registration.