Hot off the press: A new Pantone guide for flexographers

By Jack Kenny, Label and Narrow Web Editor | 10.09.09

The first comprehensive Pantone color guide for flexographic printers in decades is coming off the presses at the Flexographic Trade School (FTS) in Charlotte, NC. The title is FTS Flexographic Color Application Guide in Popular PANTONE® Colors, and is available for $30 per copy. FTS is the publisher of the book, which was printed at its facility in Charlotte, under license from Pantone Inc., Carlstadt, NJ. It contains printed examples of 48 popular Pantone colors executed on a flexographic press. The colors – all using water based inks – were selected based on recommendations from ink companies and Pantone’s experience.
The concept for the book came from Art Fields, founder and program director of FTS. “The idea came basically from my aggravation in production – having to match colors picked by a customer with a Pantone book that our press can’t hit.” He approached Pantone with the idea about seven months ago, and discussions ensued immediately. Several supplier companies, including Akzo Nobel Inks and Environmental Inks and Coatings, were approached to sign on to the project, and testing and preparation took several months. Printing began in June.

‘A beautiful book’

Each color in the guide will be represented twice – on gloss coated stock and on matte coated stock (which many converters refer to as uncoated). Furthermore, each sample will be coated with two varnishes, one UV cured and the other a water-based overprint varnish. Each color will be printed as a solid, in various screens up to 200 lines per inch, as a bar code, and with several different type sizes.

“I had been interested in doing a book on liquid ink for years,” said Mike Garin, vice president of Pantone. “When Art called me with the idea, I told him I was interested because it had been a dream of mine, too. So I hopped on a plane to see what FTS was all about.”

According to FTS, the guide contains 11 base formulation colors, 21 centerline colors and 16 blends, including browns and grays, all from Pantone’s full spectrum guides.The inks used in printing colors in this guide were manufactured to simulate the coated portion of the Pantone formula guide printer edition, and the same inks and printing conditions were used as a follow-through in printing the matte coated portion of the guide. In addition, each color was printed with a readable bar code so designers can avoid specifying colors that are not scanner friendly. All steps of design and production were supervised by representatives of Pantone Inc.

Developers of the guide say that it:
•Provides benefits of matching flexo color created inks or pigments on flexo pressure sensitive stocks;
•Provides buyers of flexo printing a guide of matching Pantone colors created using flexographic printing inks;
•Provides flexo printers a means of narrowing customer choices to the most popular flexo colors — making color matching more efficient at press side;
•Allows comparison of varnishes, so that there are no disappointments and wasted time at press side;
• Provides customers the look of a color in a solid and screened form, on label stocks being used every day;
• Shows what colors can be bar coded with a high level of confidence; and
• Reduces downtime caused by color matching of substrates and inks not used in flexo — or colors that aren’t readily available in flexo.

The FTS Flexographic Color Application Guide in Popular PANTONE Colors is available from the Flexographic Trade School, as well as from many of the suppliers who were involved in the project. A portion of the proceeds from each sale will go to FTS, which is a press operator training school as well as a research center for more than 140 member companies, both converters and suppliers, seeking to advance flexography’s competitiveness in package printing.

For details, contact FTS at (704) 504-5008; e-mail: fts@aol.com; web: www.WeAreFlexo.com.