A version of this article originally appeared in X-Rite’s blog on February 7th, 2017.

Color is a critical element in the manufacturing process but unfortunately, getting color right is much harder than it used to be and to make matters more complicated, brands are asking manufacturers to meet tighter tolerances.

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While advances in color technology – think metallic packaging, pearlescent finishes, custom fabrics and vibrant new colors – entice customers, they too also make it much more difficult to achieve consistency.

Take packaging for example. Store shelves that used to be lined with printed boxes now include foil pouches, blister packs, and multi-substrate displays. Color is especially difficult to control with reflective and translucent surfaces, and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.

From textiles to plastics to paint and coatings, the story is the same across every industry: color that used to pass muster is no longer good enough; brand managers and consumers are getting pickier. If the color doesn’t look right, consumers will pass right by the offending package for a competing brand, and the rejected products often end up as wasted inventory.

This is causing both brands and manufacturers a great deal of stress. Can you relate to the following questions?

  • Do you step outside to evaluate color in natural light?
  • Do you email photos for colleagues and executives to evaluate and approve?
  • Do you feel uncertain about which color you’re expected to produce?
  • Do you see color that used to be “good enough” now being rejected?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your visual evaluation program has room for improvement. Luckily it doesn’t require a lot of time, money, or effort to take the first step on the journey to consistent color.

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Let’s take a look at the four most common places color goes wrong in visual evaluation programs and ways to combat these issues.

1 – The wrong lighting.

This image demonstrates why it’s important to evaluate color under standard lighting. See how the shade of red changes with the type of light?


As the temperature of light changes so does our perception of color.

But what if you don’t know if the lighting in your office is standard? Don’t cross your fingers and hope. Using lighting indicator stickers are a better option to ensure consistency. Each sticker has two patches and if they match, it indicates that you’re working under natural daylight conditions. If not, you should move to a different light source before making color decisions.

Of course, these stickers won’t show you how your colors will look under the fluorescent, incandescent or LED lighting found in stores, offices, and homes. The best way to know how your finished packaging will look is to use a light booth.

Light booths don’t have to be a huge investment, and the payoff in fewer rejections will come fast.

2 – Less than perfect color vision.

Most people don’t know that they have some type of color deficiency, but it is incredibly common. In fact, about one in every 13 men and one in every 300 women exhibit some type of color deficiency.

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