Printing Pantone colours and your printer or printing press

Ever tried printing a Pantone colour with no success? I always thought if I couldn’t reproduce a Pantone colour, it was due to the non-PostScript cheap inkjet printer I’m using these days, until I did some research. I found out many printers (the humans) are having trouble printing some Pantone colours even with the latest EFI Fiery Servers driving some high-end digital printing presses. Even when using the CMYK cross-reference colour with a manual adjustment of the percentages to create the spot colour can it go wrong on a Xerox digital colour press EX1000 or any other device. The reason is simple, though: gamut.

If you are unsure whether the Pantone colour you’re trying to print is out of gamut for your EX1000 and you’re running Fiery Command WorkStation 5, here are a few steps to try solve the problem:

  • Goto the Device manager tab > Resources > Spot Colours
  • Make sure you have correctly set both stock and output profile
  • Select the appropriate Pantone Library where your spot colour is located
  • At the bottom of the screen you should now see an “Inspect” button
  • Click the Inspect button, which will plot the ICC profile in LAB format
  • Compare against the output profile you have selected — you will probably see a lot of “dots” outside of the output profile
  • Use the eyedropper tool to click on one of the dots and it will tell you which Pantone it is.

If it lies outside of the output profile then it is out of gamut, and you can’t print out of gamut colours, no matter how hard you try.

You can also click on the spot colour and look at the colour circle to the right. The left half will show the Pantone colour in LAB, while the right half will show the CMYK equivalent LAB as well as show you a deltaE difference. Some of these will have deltaE’s upwards of 30, which is a massive difference. This is due to most Pantone colours requiring more than four colours to produce. If you r printer or printing press doesn’t have more than four colours to address, well then you’re probably out of luck — unless you’re willing to shell out extra money if your device allows for an upgrade…