New Technologies in a Printing World – Extended Gamut Printing

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In an ever changing industry which is becoming more and more demanding, printers need to adapt to new technologies. Working smarter, becoming more efficient, and delivering these capabilities to customers is essential to success in the printing industry. Extended Gamut Printing is one such example.

Traditional color reproduction strategies can fall short for a couple of reasons: First, because we are used to viewing images on brightly lit monitors, printed images can look dull with the restricted gamut of conventional CMYK inks. Secondly, printers cannot reproduce the full range of Pantone colors using conventional CMYK inks—it is not always convenient, cost effective or technically even possible, to use spot colors, either. Enter Extended Gamut Printing.

Extended Gamut Printing is any method of expanding the color gamut beyond what can be replicated using conventional 4-color process printing. Alternatively, it may also be referred to as “Wide Gamut”, “Expanded Gamut” or “High Fidelity” printing.

One of the first extended gamut systems was Hexachrome, developed by Pantone (now owned by Xrite) about 20 years ago. The Hexachrome system consisted of adding orange and green with CMYK to expand the color gamut. Pantone’s claim was that more than 90% of the PMS colors could be printed accurately.

Extended Gamut systems will come and go—in fact, Hexachrome didn’t gain the popularity that was expected; Xrite is focusing their efforts in other areas. Whatever the system may be, the premise is this: adding extra colors between C, M and Y on the color wheel can almost double the printed gamut space (the image at the top of this blog illustrates this). Consider the inner part of the white triangle the “CMYK gamut” and the image in its entirety the “extended gamut space.”

The benefits of an extended gamut are that printed images are more colorful and closer to the original, and it reduces the need for custom spot colors. Additionally, the press can run the same 7 colors on every job, resulting in significant cost savings in the press room.

Vibrant, color accurate images are more easily achieved when using a third accent color in the color recipe. For example, flesh tones are comprised of primarily magenta and yellow; adding an orange to the mix will create a richer flesh tone color that simply cannot be achieved without it. Picture lush, green grass that is that much richer because a green is added to the cyan and yellow recipe. The list goes on.

Reduction of custom spot colors is much more of a reality using an extended color gamut. CMYK inks are capable of reproducing less than half of the Pantone library; using 7-color, extended gamut printing, upwards of 90 percent can be reproduced. The net effect is that special mix inks are no longer necessary—not to mention the cost savings associated with eliminating them.

The economic benefits of Extended Gamut Printing is more wide spread than reducing the need for custom spot colors. For example, by simulating a large number of spot colors, printers can reduce the number of make readies, press runs, wash-ups, and inks used. These days, press production runs are only getting shorter, so printing efficiencies must be maximized. Extended Gamut printing allows printers to run jobs in tandem without change over’s, and to incorporate a higher number of items on gang run press sheets.

Brand owners and their brand identity benefit because packaging and label printers with a well defined extended gamut system have a concrete, measurable tool for the most critical component of print quality. Shelf appeal and brand recognition are ensured in that production runs are accurate, consistent, repeatable and affordable.

Impressions Incorporated uses our spotfree® process for Extended Gamut Printing, which utilizes Esko Artwork’s exclusive technology—“Equinox Expanded Gamut Color System.” Our spotfree® process is used not only for converting and enhancing individual images, but to convert PMS colors into 5, 6, or 7 standard color sets, thus eliminating the need for mixing spot colors. The result: increased quality, productivity and repeatability for all of the reasons already mentioned. We have the ability to utilize spotfree® using our conventional presses and HP Indigo WS6600 digital press.

Featured image courtesy of Esko

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Author: Nicole Hannover

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