QuadTech – Colour management matters

Manage ink colour at-press without correcting ink, instead managing print conditions such as ink concentration and anilox (Source: QuadTech)

Seven colour management breakthroughs

Increasingly, brand owners are using multiple print processes, substrates, packaging solutions, and print production locations – and expect absolute fidelity to brand colours across all platforms. Yet the demand for colour perfection is not limited to brand colours alone. Very slight colour shifts or inconsistencies in product imagery have a significant impact on consumers’ perception of the product.

Written by Craig Du Mez


A great deal of research has been done on the importance of colour in influencing buyer behaviour. Jill Morton of Colorcom gathered some interesting study results in an article entitled “Why colour matters”. According to a study  conducted by Loyola University Maryland, “colour increases brand recognition by over 80%.” University of Winnipeg’s Satyendra Singh, in “Impact of Colour on Marketing” shows that colour has a great impact on sales since “people make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds of initial viewing, and between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone.”

Research by the Henley Centre suggests 73% of purchasing decisions are now made in-store. Consequently, catching the shopper’s eye and conveying information effectively are critical to successful sales.

Quality and consistency

For printers and converters, it is becoming increasingly complicated to meet these quality and consistency challenges. In addition to rising brand owner demands, printers are faced with an increased pace and complexity of required technological innovation at a time when profit margins are very tight. Add to that increasing requirements to meet new industry standards, an aging workforce, and the scarcity of true colour experts… and the challenges can be extremely daunting.

For that reason, QuadTech has introduced new colour management tools that address these challenges. Among the products are workflow solutions that are software, automation that greatly simplifies the science of colour, and inline colour measurement technology that is also adaptable for small printing and converting operations.

ColourTrack’s complete, simplified workflow (Source: Quadtech)


Inline spectral measurement

There is a growing trend to move from periodic colour measurement with handheld spectrophotometers, to inline spectral measurement. Continuous inline measurement catches problems through the print run, preventing product that is within colour tolerances from being rejected, and ensuring that no out-of-tolerance product is passed on to customers.

The new DeltaCam, launched at last year’s drupa, an inline spectral measurement, is suitable for individual packaging print houses. According to the company, for about half the cost of other inline systems, package printers can utilize automated Lab measurement on film, paper or board. The M1, M0, ISO compliant technology enables printers to reduce time and waste while maintaining colour throughout the roll.

ColourTrack, a new colour management software for flexo and gravure packaging applications, is a solution that automates the process of delivering absolute consistency from press-to-press, shift-toshift, and plant-to-plant. With several options for hand-held and inline configurations, the software facilitates fast, accurate press-side correction of ink formulations. ColourTrack software is set to integrate with ink recipe software in order to reduce the number of ink corrections needed to achieve optimal colour. With human colour experts, three to five colour corrections on start-up are typical for a new job or even six to eight for difficult colours. According to QuadTech its software solution can achieve more accurate colour in one or two corrections.

A look back

Traditionally, colour measurement data had to be sent to the ink kitchen to correct the ink recipe. This can now be done press-side, using software and “virtual scales” that can accurately determine the amount of ink remaining in each ink unit. Printers can therefore track their ink quantities so that they know exactly the right quantity needed to bring the colour back within tolerances, and can make the correction on the fly.

With InkWeigh, press operators can view and weigh ink recipes received from the formulation software to make press-side corrections enabling savings in time and ink.

“Seven colour management breakthroughs”

These solutions were first introduced at drupa 2016. Since then, new features have been developed to deliver what the company refers to as “seven colour management breakthroughs” because these capabilities are new to the packaging and converting industry:

  1. Pre-laminate/Post-laminate colour support
  2. ColourTrack press-side recipe correction module
  3. Ink strength/anilox colour correction
  4. Spot colour tone value calculation to ISO 20654
  5. Enhanced colour measurement through strip scanning
  6. Simplified ink quantity tracking via patented “Virtual Scales”
  7. Complete, simplified workflow

Data sharing

At the heart of an effective, simplified, automated workflow is the seamless sharing of data; from customer inputs through all phases of a print operation. On the front end, customers might specify colour targets using data files, digital colour formula guides, colour books, ink samples, or actual printed product examples. A quality manager sets up the print job in the system (offline, saving setup time on-press), and data is immediately accessible to the ink kitchen and the pressroom.

To state the obvious, printers only make money when the presses are running. Instant sharing of job data ensures that press rooms are spending more time producing top quality colour, and less time stopping and adjusting.

Seamless sharing of data also reduces ink wastage and high storage costs by keeping records of batches, lots, additives and quantities back to individual containers.

Example in practice

As an example: If a printer is going to run a job for Ferrari, and they have inventory of McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and/or Marlboro red ink in their storage warehouse, QuadTech’s workflow solution will identify close colour matches already available. A small change to the inventoried recipe eliminates the need to mix Ferrari red ink from scratch. On press, the system can also use mathematical formulas to calculate so-called “best match” numbers for the impact of concentration or anilox changes. Operators can immediately see whether those actions will achieve precise colour accuracy.

According to the company, technology-driven workflow solutions are critical to future success: More than 25% of brand owners indicate that they frequently encounter colour inconsistency or inaccuracy, according to Sara Tornetta in Colour Sells. Patrice Aurenty, business leader for colour management at Sun Chemical, says that brand owners experience anywhere from 40% to 70% rework costs added to each new product launch due to colour issues.


There is an opportunity for printers and converters who can adopt workflow solutions that increase press productivity, reduce colour make-ready and set-up time, and reduce ink inventory and storage needs. Strong inter-instrument agreement and a connected work­flow also allows printers to prove their colour quality to their cus­tomers. This will have a huge im­pact on profitability by decreasing liability exposure and rebates.

1) Morton, J., Why Colour Matters. https://www.colourcom.com/research/why-colour-matters
2) Tornetta, S., Fox, T., & Blackbird, J. (n.d.). Colour Sells: How the psychology of colour influences consumers (pp. 1–8, Rep.).
3) Aurenty, P. (2013, November). From Chaos To Control-Transforming The Packaging Industry With Colour Man­agement. FLEXO Magazine.

This article was first published in NarrowWebTech, print issue 4-2017.

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