Promotional Products for Business

Pens, Magnetic signage, Stationary and Envelopes…. It’s so much more!

In the world of promotional marketing, you typically make a traveling business store front where the customer comes to solicit YOU for your services. What a trade on perspective, you are being asked to sell to your potential clients. With that, it’s important that as your perspective clients not only hear your message, but remember you by days end. What happens the following workday? Will they remember who you were, will they still like you over the competitor?
Promotional marketing is all about giving people and experience and using that gift to build customer loyalty.

Of course, promotional items arn’t just for events, they are also good for customer appreciation gifts, prizes, customer incentive programs as well as building brand authority and your business identity.

Whatever your reason, we can help you find the right items for the right cause.


Newsletter Signup

On June 22, 2011, in Marketing, website_marketing, by admin

We know that statistically, 60% of our newsletters sent via email will make it to your inbox, 16%-24% of you will probably open it up and only 12%-15% of you will actually read it all the way through. But, I must say… We have every intention of making this the juiciest newsletter complete with Rocking Coupons, vibrant and current articles regarding marketing and growing your company, and new about trends in the marketing the small business. We’re even launching a how-to video section on our website where you can see how to do everything from customizing your email signature and even how to build your own website.

Hint, if you signup early, were offering our customers a very special social media package and consultation package for free. contact us and ask about how to take advantage of some of our social, mobile and local marketing packages. We only have room for 5 new clients so hurry!


Analytical-Get Tracking

On June 22, 2011, in Marketing, website_marketing, by admin

Getting Analytical with Analytics

For some of you this is old news, but for most its new. The booming success of google adwords reached it pinnacle in early 2000. Quite simply, the biggest advancement in Highly targeted marketing made this industry trend a real business changer. for pennies, you had targeted customers viewing your adds and the ones who clicked were the ones you paid for. The amount of perspective shoppers converted to customers was at an all time high. If you paid 10 cents per customer, and then they purchased your item for 19.99, you’d be living the life, and many people were.

Unfortunately, that market has flooded pretty well, but the lesson learned during that time was priceless. It showed us the way shoppers made decisions and allowed to track, compare and adjust marketing campaigns real-time. The power to interact with your customers was never this powerful. Now, while the boom is over, this tool is still just as valid and a tremendous resource. Many search engines now allow for advertisment placement and customers have learned that these adds are of high quality and interest.

Another trend are the social media platforms. Highly social, but highly monetized. What does that mean? Well, business have realized the power of influence, and in a social community, most buying decisions are made very spontaneously and impulsively.

Well, today, the new business practice is to implement the tools necessary to have this same information to better spend our marketing budgets. It gives us a more clearer picture of what money is spent well and what is a waste. You no longer have to guess, but rather look and the data can show you which add campaign is more effective and what adds are converting leads quicker and faster.

If your interested in implementing these tools, many of them are free, and so is our consultation. Let us know.


Monitor Callibration

On October 9, 2010, in Design, Technology, by admin

Monitor Calibration Methods

If you can not trust the colors displayed on your monitor, all other color management is a waste of time. Calibrating and profiling your monitor should, therefore, be your first priority. Luckily, it is the easiest part of the image capture, editing, and printing system to profile. The cost to do this ranges from free to expensive. If color accuracy and the ability to match your prints to your monitor are important to you, a decent hardware calibration system is essential. With a little work you can get good color from your monitor. If digital photography is your business, or you simply want the best colors you can get, the expense of a high quality calibration system is more than justified.

The most basic calibration tool, other than ignoring calibration altogether, is Adobe Gamma. This is certainly better than nothing, but leaves much to be desired. The sole advantage is that it is free (once you purchase Photoshop). The primary problem is that your basic eyeball calibration is highly influenced by ambient lighting, how much sleep you’ve had, and how much coffee is coursing through your veins. Obtaining a consistent viewing environment is difficult under these conditions. If you are stuck with eyeball calibration, Norman Koren put together a set of charts that work better than those bundled with Adobe Gamma — scroll towards the bottom of this page.

Hardware-based monitor calibrators provide far more accurate and repeatable results. The results of our ongoing tests and reviews of monitor calibrators is found here.

To get the best results from your monitor, it is important to understand the steps involved. The first is calibration; i.e. setting your monitor to a well-defined, standard state. You need to select a color temperature to work with. PC video cards and monitors are usually shipped with a white point set to 9300°K. This gives a bluish tint to everything. It is often used for CAD work stations or in video games where maximum color contrast is desired. For photography, however, color accuracy is more important. The next standard color temperature is 5000°K (or its close cousin D50). This is the color of lighting in art galleries, and approximates sunlight. On many PC monitors it produces white colors with a dingy, yellowish cast. For some Macs, it is a viable choice. A better choice is often 6500°K (or D65). Most monitors reach useful brightness levels much more easily at 6500°K/D65 than at 5000°K/D50. Also, some monitors display reddish highlights at D50. Play with your monitor settings and decide which looks best.

If you have an LCD screen and your calibration system allows using the native white point, do so. This preserves the maximum possible color range on LCD monitors.

Next, select the gamma to use. The traditional value for older black and white Macintosh monitors was a gamma of 1.8. This also worked for video systems capable of only showing 16 colors. Almost all modern CRT monitors, however, have a native gamma of close to 2.2, which is determined by the design of the electron guns. The farther you drag the video system from this optimal level, the more calibration artifacts such as shadow banding and posterization appear. Therefore, a gamma of 2.2 allows for the maximum range of colors your system can display. Ideally, a monitor calibration system allows calibrating to the native gamma.

After selecting a color temperature and gamma, the next calibration step involves setting the black (brightness) and white (contrast) levels to their optimum values. Start by setting the black to zero and the contrast to 100%. On CRT monitors, contrast at 100% usually gives the most possible colors, but is sometimes uncomfortably bright. LCD monitors usually need the contrast reduced slightly to avoid blowing out all fine details. Your calibration software will guide you to getting the optimum level. The brightness should be set so almost black is just barely distinguishable from pure black. Set brightness too low, and all your shadow details go dark. Set too high, the shadows get washed out. Again, follow the instructions in your calibration software. Most calibration software and/or hardware works best, however, if you start the adjustment process with the brightness and contrast controls set to their extremes.

Once you have the screen levels set, the Red, Green, and Blue guns need to be balanced so neutral colors do not show a color cast. Do as many of these adjustments by using your monitor’s display controls as possible (don’t worry, your calibration software will give details on how to do this). Adobe Gamma or any of the hardware calibration packages can do everything by adjusting your video card alone, but the result is a reduced color gamut for your display. This is not good, as you will clip the purest, most saturated colors.

After the monitor is calibrated, a profile is made. If you used Adobe Gamma, the program merely writes out a profile table describing the adjustments you made. If you used a hardware calibrator, the sensor measures a set of color patches to determine the limits of the monitor’s color display capability. You can see which monitor profile Photoshop (version 6 and above) is actually using by opening Edit->Color Settings. Expand the RGB working space list, and scroll up. You’ll see a line with “Monitor RGB – xyz.” The file listed instead of xyz is the monitor profile Photoshop displays all images in. This is important to check, as some profiling software packages can write invalid profiles. If this occurs, Photoshop ignores the profile and displays in a default space that is guaranteed not to match your monitor.

We have a pair of test images to help evaluate your monitor calibration. The first is a test of the black point and shadow performance. The second diagnoses incorrect gamma settings and provides an overall check of screen neutrality.


  • Before you embark on any monitor calibration journey, make sure your display is suitably warmed up. This entails having the display on (and not in screen saver mode) for an hour or so. Also, try to minimize any glare on the screen, or light shining directly at the display. This is particularly important if you are performing calibration by eye.
  • The characteristics of a monitor change with time. It is a good idea to re-calibrate and profile your display every week or two.

Evaluation Charts:

As a rough check of your monitor calibration, you can compare an electronic version (converted to sRGB) of a GretagMacbeth™ ColorChecker® to the real thing. For a more accurate comparison, we have different editions of the chart in several formats. These charts are based on measurements averaged from multiple charts. GretagMacbeth changed the paint formulation for recent ColorChecker editions. The colors are reasonably consistent within each formulation version, with larger differences between recent and legacy paints.

The charts below are for the older paints, used from 1976 until the recent reformulation to more environmentally friendly paints.

The Color Checker chart is available in two versions. The first is the full sized 8×11″ target most useful for general work. The second is the Mini ColorChecker in business card size of 2.5×3.5 inches. This is useful as a portable reference.


Using ICC Color Profiles

On October 9, 2010, in Design, Technology, by admin

Profile usage

Profiles are simply look-up tables that describe the properties of a color space. They define the most saturated colors available in a color space; i.e. the bluest blue or deepest black your printer can produce. If you don’t have a profile, the trio of Red, Green, and Blue values (or CMYK) that make up a color have no particular meaning — you can say something is blue, but not exactly which shade of blue. Accurate profiles are the key to a color-managed workflow. With accurate monitor and printer profiles, your prints will closely match what you see on your monitor. Without profiles, you need to rely on trial and error combined with good old-fashioned guessing.

Using profiles is simple; for information on generating monitor profiles, see our Monitor calibration page. Photoshop versions 6.0 and later automatically display everything using your monitor profile. When printing or soft proofing, you can select any applicable profile. If you have accurate monitor and printer profiles, Photoshop’s soft proofing can give a remarkably accurate preview of how your printed image will look. If you have a camera or scanner profile, you can eliminate much of the corrections within Photoshop.

Let’s review a basic color-managed work flow. For a version directed towards Fuji Frontier and Noritsu digital printers, check here. This assumes you have monitor and printer profiles. Many cameras and scanners produce files that are tagged as having a standard editing space color profile such as sRGB, Adobe RGB, or Wide Gamut RGB. If you take the time to actually profile the device, you will find that although the color gamut may be close to the editing space, it is not an exact match. If you have an accurate camera or scanner profile, correcting your images will be much easier. The following assumes you are using Photoshop version 6.0 or later. If not, save yourself hours of frustration and get the upgrade!

Note: Photoshop CS2 brought changes to many of the printer dialogs. The new features in Photoshop CS3 did not alter the color management workflow. The instruction list below gives details for both CS3/CS2 and for earlier Photoshop versions.

Example work flow

  1. If you have not already installed the profile(s) on your system, you need to do so before proceeding.
  2. Open the image in Photoshop.
    • Note: If you are presented with a profile mismatch dialog, select “Use the embedded profile”. Do not let Photoshop convert the file upon opening. Without knowing what color space to convert from, this is asking for trouble
  3. Assign your scanner or camera profile to the image (Image→Mode→Assign Profile). We’ve now told Photoshop how to interpret the image colors. If you do not have a profile for your input device, use the closest suitable working space (usually Adobe RGB or sRGB), if the image is not already in the correct color space.
  4. Convert the image to a suitable editing color space. If you don’t have other preferences, Adobe RGB is a reasonable choice. You do not want to edit the image in the device color space — it describes how your camera or scanner sees the world, which does not translate into a well-behaved editing space.
    • Note: If you do not have a scanner or camera profile, simply ignore the first three steps.
    • Note: The above steps can be turned into an action or droplet for automatic/batch processing.
  5. Edit until you are happy. Save the file.
  6. Make a duplicate of the image. The original should be saved as a master copy, suitable for printing on any printer. We’ll now work on the duplicate, and tune it to optimize the colors you get on your printer.
  7. Now it is time to soft proof to see how the print will look. Choose the duplicate image, and select View→Proof Setup→Custom.

CS2 Proof Settings

Photoshop CS2, CS3 and above

Proof Setup Options

Photoshop 6, 7, and CS

  1. Select the profile to use from the drop-down list in the Proof Setup dialog box.
  2. Check the Preview box and turn on Black Point Compensation to accurately scale the black level in your image to the printer’s black.
  3. Do not select Preserve Color Numbers. This shows how your image would look if you did not do a color space conversion — just the opposite of what you want.
  4. Experiment with rendering intent. You can quickly switch between rendering intents in the Soft Proof dialog — just have the Preview option checked. Relative Colorimetric often gives the best results. Perceptual or Saturation can be better if your image contains many out-of-gamut colors. Absolute Colorimetric rendering is often used for mid-stage print proofing; if you are familiar with this, you don’t need this document.
    • For most images, Relative Colorimetric rendering produces superior results. For others, Perceptual will be far better. These cases include images with significant shadow details where a slight lightening of the print is acceptable to open up the shadows. Also images with areas of highly saturated color can benefit from Perceptual rendering. If you see color banding in the soft proof with Rel. Color. selected, try Perceptual. With experience you will get a feel for which images best pair with each rendering intent.
    • Our profiles built after July, 2004 feature a Saturation intent that is tuned to provide maximum useable saturation in the prints. If an image will benefit from increased saturation, give the Saturation intent a try. Most profiles either reserve the Saturation intent for PowerPoint-type graphics use or simply map it to the Perceptual intent. Our new profiles are designed to give photographers another technique to get the best prints possible.
    • Note: If you have setups that you use frequently, they can be saved using the “Save” button in the Proof Setup dialog. This makes the setting available directly from the View→Proof Setup menu.
    • If you wish to save a proof setup as the default, hold down the Alt/Option key. The “Save” button changes into “→Default”. Push the button to save the selected proof setup as Photoshop’s default.
  5. Simulation options:
    • These attempt to show the reduced contrast range the printed page will have vs. what your monitor can show. Without them you will have an over-optimistic view of the final contrast.
    • It is easiest to perform any major color and tonal adjustments without Simulate Paper Color/Paper White or Black Ink checked.
    • The Black Ink simulation should be checked to see if the shadow detail in your source image will hold up in print. This is particularly important for images with significant shadow detail. If your shadow details disappear, selective dodging can bring them back.
    • Simulate Paper Color/Paper White attempts to show the effects of the difference between your monitor’s white level and the (usually) less-bright paper. This simulation is less accurate than the Ink Black, but is helpful for ensuring critical highlight details hold up.
    • When you check the Simulate Paper Color/White box, the look of the image will likely change dramatically. This is an artifact of Photoshop trying to make the light emitted from your monitor match the look of light reflected from the printed page. The simulation works best if all white user interface elements (toolbars, palettes, etc.) are hidden. Use Photoshop’s Full Screen mode for the most accurate view, and glance away as you switch the simulation on.
  6. If you do not see significant changes when soft proofing, this is OK. This means your image contains colors that mainly lie within the printer’s gamut. If the images do not match well enough, the following steps can help.
  7. Set the highlight and shadow points in the Levels dialog box. In Photoshop, hold down Alt/Option while adjusting the level sliders. This will show any shadow or highlight clipping that occurs. The ideal setting is usually the point right before clipping occurs.
    • What’s going on? The problem is that your monitor screen is capable of showing a much wider contrast range (usually 300-500x between black and white) than is the printed page. By adjusting the Soft Proof image you can visually compensate for some of the discrepancy. An intelligent levels adjustment, or slight boost to saturation is usually all it takes to give your prints the needed pop.
  8. Any color casts or lack of saturation can usually be fixed by minor curves tweaks. See the references for links to editing techniques.
    • If you can’t seem to get one or more colors right, the problem may be that your monitor is not capable of displaying the colors correctly. To check for this, soft proof using your monitor profile, and turn on the gamut warning (View→Gamut Warning). This is a useful technique in other cases, and is a good check when your prints do not match your monitor.
  9. If you are not familiar with how your printer responds, or do not trust the profile, it is a good idea to check for out-of-gamut colors (View→Gamut Warning). Using a selected color range, you can (in order of preference) reduce the lightness, tweak the hue, or very slightly reduce the saturation to bring the problem colors within gamut. Note that all your edits are being performed in the file’s editing color space rather than in the printer color space.  This makes edits more predictable and controllable.
  10. At this point, you may want to convert the image to the output color profile (Edit→Convert to Profile for Photoshop CS3 and CS2 or Image→Mode→Convert to Profile for previous versions). This is particularly true if you are sending the image to be printed on a device such as a Fuji Frontier or other digital lab printer. These machines do not read embedded profiles, so without the conversion, all your hard work will be wasted.
  11. Our preference is to archive both versions of the image — the original and the converted and profiled duplicate. To print the image on a different printer, start with the original rather than performing endless series of profile conversions that will slowly degrade the image.

Printing with ICC Profiles:

  1. If you are printing directly from Photoshop, you want to ensure that your printer is set up exactly as it was when you printed the profiling target. In most cases, this means turning off all printer color management and automatic image enhancements. You are letting the profile and Photoshop’s conversion do the color work rather than relying on some image-dependent algorithm.
  2. If you are using a CMYK printer, the details of CMYK separations are beyond the scope of this brief list. In most cases, this is not terribly difficult — get a good reference book.
  3. It is essential to avoid applying the profile twice. This typically happens when printing to desktop printers with drivers that are all too happy to try their hand at color management. Use the Print With Preview dialog in Photoshop 7.0 and later to gain access to all the color options. Be sure to check the “More Options” button to see the color settings. (These are available in the Print dialog in Photoshop 6.)
  4. If you are sending the image out to be printed, either talk with the print operator first or give written instructions. You usually want to provide a file that has been converted to the printer profile. Tell the operator not to monkey with your image or apply any automatic enhancements. For more Fuji Frontier and Noritsu specific information, refer to our profile usage instructions.

Print Matching

If you have concerns about the print matching your display, first ensure that the monitor is accurately calibrated and profiled. As mentioned above, the entire color-managed workflow hinges on your monitor’s color accuracy. Check that your monitor profile is actually being used by Photoshop:

  • Open the RGB Working Space list in Photoshop’s Color Settings dialog box.
  • Scroll up until you come to the line “Monitor RGB – xxxx”
  • If xxxx is not the name of your monitor profile, something is amiss. Either your profile is not installed as the system default, or the profile itself is bad. Try regenerating the profile.
  • Important: Press Cancel to exit the Color Settings dialog box without inadvertently doing something dumb such as selecting your monitor profile as your default working space.

Our profiles are tuned by default to viewing under D50 illumination. This is not the same as standard incandescent, fluorescent, or sun light. We can create profiles for these conditions, but D50 is the publishing industry standard. For critical color matching, view the prints in a D50 light booth. The light emitted from your monitor will never be a perfect match for light reflecting from a print surface, but our printer profiles combined with your accurately profiled monitor should get you very close indeed.


Introduction to Color Space

On October 9, 2010, in Design, by admin

What they are:

A device color space simply describes the range of colors, or gamut, that a camera can see, a printer can print, or a monitor can display. Editing color spaces, on the other hand, such as Adobe RGB or sRGB, are device-independent. They also determine a color range you can work in. Their design allows you to edit images in a controlled, consistent manner. A device color space is tied to the idiosyncrasies of the device it describes. An editing space, on the other hand, is gray balanced — colors with equal amounts of Red, Green, and Blue appear neutral. Editing spaces also are perceptually uniform; i.e. changes to lightness, hue, or saturation are applied equally to all the colors in the image.

What a color space contains:

Imagine a box containing all the visible colors. The farther from the center of the box you go, the more saturated the colors become — Red towards one corner, Blue towards another, Green towards the third (our box has a curious shape). A Cyan, Magenta, Yellow color space works the same way, except that the primary colors are CMY rather than RGB. For simplicity, we will refer only to RGB spaces, but the comments apply equally to CMY(K) color spaces. A color space can be represented as a balloon blown up inside the box. The space taken up by the balloon is the portion of the total number of visible colors that fall within the particular color space. Larger balloons contain more colors, or have a larger gamut, while smaller balloons hold fewer colors. The surface of the balloon has the most saturated colors that the color space can hold. Any colors falling outside the balloon can’t be reproduced in that color space.

Colors inside the balloon are described using (R,G,B) coordinates. The most saturated (i.e. purest) red in any color space has an R-value of 255. Since larger color spaces have larger balloons, they contain both more air volume (i.e. more colors), and the surface of the balloon is farther from the center of the box (i.e. the colors are more saturated). Therefore, larger color spaces such as Adobe RGB contain both more colors and more highly saturated colors than smaller spaces like sRGB. A comparison of the Adobe RGB and sRGB gamuts is below. As you can see, working with Adobe RGB allows you to see and print more of most colors. Adobe RGB was designed to contain the entire color gamut available from most CMYK printers. sRGB is an HP/Microsoft defined color space that describes the colors visible on a low end monitor.

In general, you want to use color spaces that are as large as is practical. For example, if your printer is capable of producing output in a color space larger than sRGB, there is no reason to hobble your work by limiting output to the small sRGB gamut. If you do, you’ll lose the saturated cyans and greens that can make your prints stand out.

What can we learn from the above?

Your applications and devices need to know what color space they are working with.

  • This most definitely includes your monitor. Without knowing what color space your monitor displays images in, it is impossible to accurately gauge how your images will appear in print. Calibration and profiling of your monitor is the first step towards a color managed workflow.
  • Most printers and very few scanners or cameras either print or capture images in well-defined color spaces.

Larger color spaces contain both more colors and brighter, more saturated colors.

  • If your camera or scanner supports it, use a larger color space such as Adobe RGB.
  • Use sRGB for web graphics. This is at least in the same ballpark as most monitors. Using Adobe RGB for web images leads to washed-out looking colors in applications that are not color aware (i.e. most web browsers).

Viewing Color Spaces

  • You can compare standard color spaces to those of many common printers, digital cameras, and scanners using our interactive color gamut plots. These are 3-D models that allow you to view the color spaces from all angles.

What is Pantone P2

On October 9, 2010, in Design, by admin

What Is Pantone P2

What is Pantone P2

Note: In our last installment we walked through the release of Pantone’s Goe system, and the lessons learned from that product’s lackluster launch. Those insights fed directly into changes to the Pantone Matching System (PMS) that culminated in this year’s launch of Pantone Plus. Now, we’ll dig into the details of the this brand new system, and what it means for designers, printers, and anyone else involved in laying ink on paper.
Pantone Plus

Pantone Plus

Plus One? The Pantone Plus System
After Pantone Goe failed to catch on with its core audience of graphic designers and printers, the braintrust at Pantone realized there was still an unmet need in those communities. Also, the storied color matching system, PMS (Pantone Matching System), was crying out for a refresh. So Pantone took the best parts of Goe and the foundation of PMS, fusing them together to form the new Pantone Plus System.

We got the inside scoop on Pantone from Giovanni Marra, Pantone’s Director of Corporate Marketing. To add a more diverse set of views, we also interviewed a select group of offset printers (Elk Grove Graphics, Darwill Press, Van Lanen and Lithographix) and ink manufacturers (Sinclair Ink Systems) to get their input.

Introduced in May of 2010, Pantone Plus fills in existing gaps in the PMS color spectrum by adding new hues, while simultaneously incorporating some of the advances of the Goe system. There’s more to the Plus development story than that, so here are some of the specifics:

Something Old, Something New
While Plus does replace the PMS system, Pantone made sure not to repeat the mistakes it made with its release of Goe. This new system includes all of the old PMS colors, including the original metallics and neons. Those original ink formulations have not changed, and Pantone has added 556 brand new colors to “fill in the holes”. While no color names have changed, the familiar swatchbook layout is significantly altered. Each swatchbook is now organized chromatically rather than numerically, changing the sequence of many of the colors. (There’s an index if you need to look up a color by its number, however.)

Pantone Plus Swatchbooks

Marra gave us some info on how Plus has been received thus far. “At the HOW Conference,” he said, “people loved the new chromatic arrangement. If you’ve been using the book for a long time, it takes a little getting used to. But people like the new colors.”

Additions To the (Color) Family: Neons and Metallics
In addition to the new spot colors sprinkled throughout the spectrum, Pantone Plus introduces a slew of new swatches into the neon and metallics categories. This includes 42 new neons (previously there were only 14) for total of 56 neon colors. Also, 300 new “premium” metallic colors have been added to the already-existing 300. Just don’t toss away your current metallics swatchbook—these new metals stand alone in their own book, labeled “Premium Metallics”. The metals also have upgraded ink technology behind them. “The new metallics are a much higher luster and have a cleaner feel to them,” Marra said. “They are made with a higher metallic base than the old ink. These Premium Metallics are ‘non-leafing,’ meaning the metallic particles lay flat so they have greater brilliance and luster, especially when coated.” Also, the new neon colors have been moved, and are now located in the Pastels and Neons book.

Listening To Your Printers
Pantone has also responded to critical feedback from printers that came with the Goe system, and acted accordingly with Plus. This new system utilizes the 14 traditional PMS base ink colors that printers are accustomed to. Marra explained, “We changed the ink film thickness on all the new colors, but not the old colors. It’s easier for printers and designers to move from PMS to Plus, because there are no new ink bases needed. Printers can keep using the same ink bases they’ve been using for years.”

Adoption costs for printers are also less than they were with Goe. Todd Petzak, Pressroom Manager of Van Lanen, explained: “The advantages for us as a printer are basically having an easier system for mixing colors and finding colors within the Pantone Plus library.” Printers just need to purchase the new swatchbooks, since all PMS-ready printers already have the 14 needed ink bases. However, this transition is sometimes easier said than done in the current economic climate, as Todd Mason, of Elk Grove Graphics said. “We need a minimum of nine new guides plus additional formula guides for each press. These guides represent a significant investment in the new Pantone Plus system — well over $1,000 for our shop. On our end we will need to update our system settings, to proof the new colors accurately.”

To offset (no pun intended) some of the costs of purchasing new swatchbooks (and to update your faded swatchbooks), Pantone has initiated its Chip-In program, where you can get a $25 rebate for every swatchbook ($50 for chip books) you exchange when purchasing the new Plus system swatchbooks.

Mason sees a mixed bag with the changes: “The PMS system is the backbone of our industry. We are familiar with the colors and how to match them consistently. The problem is, Pantone needs to reinvent itself quite often to bring in new revenue. We really have too many choices when it comes to spot colors. So many colors are similar enough that when printed on different stocks they will appear to be the same color. It makes ink mixing difficult and overhead expenses higher as our inventory needs are increased.”

Our Review of the Plus Products
After a detailed look at the Plus system and swatchbooks, here is our take on it. [Full disclosure: Pantone provided Hexanine with a set of Pantone Plus swatchbooks for review.] Overall, we are very pleased with the new colors and changes that make up the new Plus line. Pantone seems to have taken the best parts of the existing PMS and moved them forward to provide more options for everyone—designers and printers alike. And what designer doesn’t want more color options?!

We applaud that Pantone has carried over its “Color Checker Light Indicator” from the Goe line, at the back of the swatchbooks. The checker is a set of two colors that look identical in corrected, neutral “daylight”, but color shift apart if viewed under poor lighting conditions that will affect color viewing. This is especially helpful for designers with color-sensitive clients who like to look at proofs and pieces in fluorescent or incandescent lighting conditions.

Pantone Plus Color Checker

Our critiques of the Plus system are relatively minor. The new swatchbook color arrangement isn’t a big issue—after all, most designers will be searching visually (by color) anyways. But it would have been helpful to see which colors are newly-added, as a quick reference. As it stands, there is no easy way to know the difference, except to view the old PMS and new Plus swatchbooks side-by-side. Some sort of subtle notation within the Plus swatchbooks would be much-appreciated.

The new metallic colors are welcomed, and serve as a much-needed addition to that part of the Pantone line. We are excited to have so many new options in that arena. But on the flip side, referring to the neon additions as “new colors” seems like a bit of an exaggeration. The new colors are more like tints of the 14 original neon colors rather than completely new hues. Whether this was an ink technology hurdle or just a weak effort, it falls short. It would have been nice to have some truly different neons.

The Plus system also lets you download the color libraries for use in the Adobe Creative Suite apps and QuarkXPress with the Pantone Plus Digital Libraries software. The color libraries are simple to download and install, and you don’t even need to restart your design applications.

While these libraries are available for download on the Pantone site, we were dismayed to see a confusing message when registering our new swatchbooks. (You can now register your swatchbooks on the Pantone website.) The registration site and confirmation email gave us following error in red type: “We apologize that the installer for Adobe Creative Suite is not yet available. Please check back in a few days.” This inaccurate and unfortunate programming hiccup will probably confuse early adopters, since the color libraries are available elsewhere on the site. This problem could frustrate designers who register their swatchbooks, and could mistakenly slow use of the Plus system by designers.

Final Analysis
In the end, we believe that Pantone has respected the legacy workflows of PMS while injecting some needed energy into their color matching system with a bevy of new colors. Pantone Plus seems like a worthy successor to the PMS system, and unlike Goe, designers and printers can basically keep all their entrenched practices intact. Todd Petzak, of Van Lanen, summed up the future well: “As printers, we are open and ready to implement these colors. Designers are the ones that will drive the popularity.” We see no reason why designers and printers won’t adopt the new system wholeheartedly with their next upgrade of swatchbooks, and add a whole lot of color to our world.

Have you had experience with the new Pantone Plus system? Or have additional questions? Please weigh in with your comments below. Thanks!

Tags: branding, color, color matching, design, Goe, graphic design, metallic inks, neon inks, pantone, Pantone Goe, Pantone Plus, Pantone Swatchbooks, pastel inks, PMS, printing, swatchbooks


What is Pantone P1?

On October 9, 2010, in Design, by admin

What is Pantone

What is Pantone?

What is Pantone?
If you’ve ever held color-printed piece in your hands, there’s a good chance you’ve been touched by Pantone. The self-described “authority on color”, Pantone has become an integral part of graphic design and printing, greatly influencing the color of our world. Since 1963, Pantone has been the force behind the printing industry’s color standard, the Pantone Matching System (PMS). PMS is a standardized color reproduction system whereby different manufacturers and printers can accurately reproduce the same set of colors without direct contact with one another. This is significant for brands, because of the importance that consistent color reproduction has on brand identity and packaging. Color plays such a crucial role in brand association that some companies even commission their own colors. (Tiffany’s, well-known for its signature teal blue, actually has its own custom, trademarked Pantone color, PMS 1837.)

In the last 40 years, Pantone has become the de-facto print color standard by eclipsing its competitors and evolving into other arenas. But despite Pantone’s ubiquitous presence in the drawers of any self-respecting designer, and its use in all major design software, the company has recently made some significant product line changes—changes which are important to anyone who needs to select or print colors. We’re hoping to break down these changes and give designers, printers, and color aficionados some much-needed insight. In our first installment, we’ll discuss Pantone’s Goe ink system. And then, in part two, we’ll give you the latest on Pantone’s brand-new replacement for the PMS, called Pantone Plus.

We got the inside scoop from Pantone while talking with Giovanni Marra, Pantone’s Director of Corporate Marketing. To add a more diverse set of views, we also interviewed a select group of offset printers (Elk Grove Graphics, Darwill Press, Van Lanen and Lithographix) and ink manufacturers (Sinclair Ink Systems) to get their input.

Get Up And Goe Got Up And Went
After nearly 50 years, Pantone decided it was time for a change, and it did so with some fanfare, by launching a brand new color matching system, called Goe (and pronounced “go”). But what was the impetus for this launch?

Pantone Goe Swatchbooks

Giovanni Marra said, “Over the years we have added colors, because designers always want more colors to choose from. The [swatch]books turned into a haphazard arrangement of colors, because we would always add new colors onto back of the book. It was easier because of mathematical numbering, but not intuitive. In 2007, were looking at how to upgrade the system, and integrate the features people were asking for. After a lot of research, we came out with Goe. It was laid out scientifically, in chromatic arrangement, with easy steps between colors, making it easy to find colors and work through the book,” Marra explained.

The Goe system yielded 2,058 colors, a system that could work alongside the original PMS, as well as features intended as benefits for printers. The Goe system uses 10 base inks instead of PMS’ traditional 14, which was less total inks, but still a completely new set of inks for printers to purchase. These new base inks allow for an expanded color gamut, and Marra explained Pantone’s intentions in using the new base inks: “With Goe we tried to make the system more easily printed,” he said, “because some colors can shift if they are coated certain ways. Most printers know how to get around these issues, but we wanted to fix them. We had to change some of the ink bases to deal with these coating issues.” For both designers and printers, employing the Goe system meant adapting to an entirely new numbering system as well, a huge change from the nearly-sacred numbering system of the traditional PMS. This change wasn’t received very well.

Why Goe Didn’t Take Off
Goe was launched with good intentions, but didn’t yield the results Pantone hoped for. “It never took off the way we thought it would,” Marra mentioned, “because people are very comfortable using the PMS system, and in general were very resistant to changing.” Right off the bat, the Pantone marketing was confusing. From the designers’ side, it wasn’t clear how Goe would relate to its older brother, the storied PMS. Was Goe meant to replace PMS? Or could the two be used in conjunction? The new numbering system and similar-but-not-identical colors just raised more questions. This put off many designers who were either annoyed or confused. Why mess with a tried-and-true system that seemed to work fine?

Printers were also not thrilled with elements of the system. Todd Mason, from Elk Grove Graphics, explained, “To date I am not aware of any jobs at our shop that specified using a Goe Pantone color. It really has been a flop because it requires printers to stock ten additional mixing colors. These colors are only slightly different in color to the original PMS system.” Marra is well aware of such sentiments: “There was resistance from printers because they had to inventory new ink bases, and they would sometimes be resistant to changing their workflows even when designers spec’ed the new Goe colors.”

Also, Marra said that international branding projects suffered too. Because of a lack of awareness of Goe overseas, design firms were hesitant to specify Goe colors that would need to be printed outside of the US and Canada, for fear that they would be sacrificing crucial color matching needed for important branding projects. In short, if your designs don’t include legacy PMS brand colors and your final products are printed stateside, you can use Goe spot colors comfortably and exclusively. And there are some colors unique to the Goe system, which can be a competitive branding advantage—though it’s not easy to figure out which colors those are.

Packaged To Goe
Despite all of these strikes against the Goe system, this isn’t the occasion for a eulogy. Pantone continues to support the product line, thanks in part to the packaging industry. This design niche has embraced Goe moreso than others—mainly because all the Goe colors can be coated without color shifting. “The packaging industry picked up Goe very well because if the similarity to flexo, being easier to reproduce because all colors are the same ink thickness, making it easy to run the jobs,” Marra said.

Our Review of The Goe Products
In the rear view mirror, it’s obvious that Goe wasn’t the success that Pantone hoped for. It might not be an ideal tool for specifying color, but you might still find the system useful in some ways. Here’s what we thought of the Goe swatchbooks and system overall. [Full disclosure: Pantone provided Hexanine with a set of Goe swatchbooks for review.]

With the Goe swatchbooks themselves, the new color arrangement isn’t a big problem, but it would have been more helpful to see which colors are similar to existing PMS colors. As it stands, there is no easy way to compare similar PMS & Plus colors to Goe, except to view the books side-by-side. Some kind of subtle notation, conversion tool, or documentation would make it much easier to use. However, Goe has made one excellent technical contribution to the line, in the form of the “Color Checker Light Indicator” at the back of the swatchbooks. The checker is a set of 2 colors that look identical in corrected, neutral “daylight”, but color shift apart if viewed under poor lighting conditions that will affect color viewing. This is especially helpful for designers with color-sensitive clients who like to look at proofs and pieces in fluorescent or incandescent lighting conditions.

Pantone Goe Color Checker

The Goe system also lets you download the color libraries and myPANTONE palettes for use in the Adobe Creative Suite apps and QuarkXPress. Installation of the libraries is simple enough, just requiring a self-installing download that adds the new Goe palettes to your design apps, without even needing to restart the applications.

The myPANTONE palettes creator is a standalone app for generating color palettes. This application is clearly meant to be a value-add for the Pantone set, but it seems like an unnecessary inclusion. Almost any creative professional worth their salt already has a way of creating palettes that typically revolves around their current applications. Why would you need another application to complicate your workflow? There are also other, more-useful applications like Adobe’s Kuler which has now worked itself into the native Creative Suite applications. Overall, Goe has some interesting characteristics, but nothing that would cause us to abandon PMS and years of experience using the old Pantone system. In that respect, Goe was a failure, though it might have some life in it as a niche product. Pantone seems to think so, and time will tell.

The Future Of Goe
Goe isn’t going anywhere right now, Marra explained. “Goe is still gaining in popularity, and combining the systems, you have a greater range of colors,” he said. “Our experience is that once people get over the hump of trying it, they generally like it. We are still supporting Goe, even though it’s not going to be significant in the market. But there are people who like it, and so we are still supporting it.” To that end, Pantone has also lowered the prices to help speed adoption. “Designers and printers were comfortable with the Pantone Matching System,” he said, reiterating reasons for the birth of Goe. “But we knew we needed to add more colors into the range that people would use. Designers were still wanting more colors.” These insights led directly into the creation of the brand-new Pantone Plus system, which we’ll discuss in our next installment. Stay tuned!

We’d love to here from those of you who’ve had experiences with the Pantone Goe system, so please tell us your stories in the comments below. Thanks!

Tags: branding, color, color matching, design, Goe, graphic design, pantone, Pantone Goe, PMS, printing


Guide to Social Networking Basics

On September 30, 2010, in Marketing, by admin

Social Network Basics

Despite what you might think, social networking is not something new. As this social networking guide will explain, social networks have been around for far longer than we have been on the web. We’ve all belonged to social networks, and we still participate in social networks.

This social networking guide will simply help you navigate the web’s version of social networks.

Social Networking Guide – Cliques

High school is an excellent example of basic social networking in action. There are various cliques like the geeks, the socials, the athletes, the band, etc. These cliques are social groups, and a person can be a member of one of them, a member of several, or a member of none.

Joining a social network can be much like moving to a new high school. On your first day, you don’t have any friends. But, as you get to know your new classmates, you start finding people of similar interests. Some like to join groups to kickstart their social integration, while others are so shy they barely get to know anyone.

And, even if we didn’t much know or care for a particular classmate, they become a fellow group member as we move out into the world. Society as a whole is a social network, and the groups consist of high schools, colleges, fraternities, work place, work industry, etc.

Have you ever met someone at a party or social gathering and found that you didn’t have much to talk about until you found out they went to the same college? Suddenly, you have plenty to talk about.

Social networking on the web is not much different. At first, you will find yourself without friends, but as you participate, your friends list will grow. And, like life, the more you participate, the more you will get out of it.

Social Networking Guide – Friends

Social networks are built around the friends concept. They aren’t always called “friends.”Linkedin, a business-oriented social network, calls them “connections.” But, they operate in much the same way regardless of what they are called.

Friends are trusted members of the social network that are often allowed to do things that non-friends are not allowed to do. For example, you might restrict getting private messages from anyone that is not on your friends list. Some social networks allow you to make your entire profile private to the public at large and only allow friends to view it.

Friends can be anyone from a real-life friend, to someone who has similar interests, to someone who lives in the same region, to someone you simply found interesting. In essence, they are someone you want to keep track of on the network.

Social networking websites allow you to find friends in various ways. There are often search features that allow you to search for friends who are interested in the same hobbies, of a certain age group, or live in a certain region of the world. You can also find friends through groups.

Social Networking Guide – Groups

Basic groups include a city, a state, a high school, a college, etc. Most social networks allow you to join these type of groups to either look for a long-lost friend or family member, or just get to know people. Groups can also cover interests such as video games, sports, books, movies, music, etc.

Groups serve two purposes.

First, they are a good way to meet people who share a similar interest. If you’ve always been a fan of the Harry Potter books, you might be interested in joining a group dedicated to Harry Potter and meeting others who enjoy the books.

Second, they are a good way to find out more about the topic. The Harry Potter group might have discussions about a particular plot line in the books or the location of an upcoming book signing by J. K. Rowling.

Social networks allow you to express yourself in many different ways. The most basic way of expressing yourself is to fill out a profile that gives basic information such as your hobbies, interests, education, work, etc.

Most social networks also allow you to customize your profile page with various themes which can include the color scheme and the background picture. Some take this to the extreme allowing users to pick out playlists of their favorite artists, video clips they find funny or interesting, and even widgets or third-party applications.

Social networks can also include a blog to let people know what is going on, a photo gallery, or other forms of expressing yourself.

Social Networking Guide – Having Fun and Doing Business

There are many different reasons to join a social network from meeting people to learning more about a subject, but the two most popular reasons are to have fun or to do business.

The having fun part is simple, so long as you choose the right social network and become involved in the community. Not all social networks are created equal, of course, so it could take several tries to find the social network right for you, but with new social networking sites popping up all the time, you should be able to find one that meets your expectations.

Social networking also has its business side beyond just social networks dedicated to business like Linkedin or XING. If you look on MySpace, you will find profiles of actors, musicians, comedians, etc. These are people doing business on MySpace by helping to cultivate a fanbase. But it goes beyond just entertainers. Businesses of all types set up profiles on social networking sites both to help advertise their services and to let people know the current news.

Social Networking and You

For those wanting to know how to get started with social networking, the first step is to identify what you want in a social network. There are many different social networking websites. Some focus on a specific interest such as sports, music, or movies. Others are more general in nature serving the public at large.

Once you identify what you want out of a social network, it is time to choose the one right for you. Don’t just settle on the first one. Come up with a small list of interesting social networks and try them before making a decision. And, there’s no rule that says you can’t be a part of multiple networks if you find the decision hard to make.


Branding Basics – Create a Great Logo and Tag Line

On September 30, 2010, in Design, by admin

Client Logo Design

Have you ever asked yourself why a competitor’s business gets more attention than yours? The answer just may have to do with the elements that go into how memorable the business is. And that has to do with branding.

But exactly what is branding, anyway? Think of branding as predefining what a company is all about in the minds of its clients. Good branding differentiates your products and services in a positive way that really sticks in the minds of potential customers.

Let’s say you are getting ready to run errands on a busy Saturday morning, thinking about the groceries that need to be bought, the dry cleaning that needs to be picked up, and the packages that must get to the post office before noon. The trip to the post office reminds you that your favorite aunt’s birthday is next Wednesday. You need to add buying and mailing a birthday card to your list of things to do. Without a moment’s hesitation, you know exactly where you will buy the card: the local Hallmark store. Why did you think Hallmark?

The answer to that question has everything to do with Hallmark’s branding and two key elements of that branding are:

  • a logo design that’s attractive, easy to read and memorable;
  • a great tag line.

Assuming your own product is fabulous, it all comes down to image. Graphic design can play a huge part in that image. But what are some key things to consider?

The First Key Element of Branding; Create a Great Logo.

You have given a great deal of attention to your company name and believe it speaks to who you are and what you do. Great! Now you need to wrap a graphic image around that name to carve out a prime piece of real estate in your target customer’s mind. That is exactly what a great logo design can do.

7 Logo Design Tips

Keep in mind that a powerful logo design:

  • has a strong, balanced image with no little extras that clutter its look;
  • is distinctive and bold in design, making it easy to see at a glance;
  • has graphic imagery that looks appropriate for your business;
  • works well with your company name;
  • is done in an easy to read font;
  • communicates your business clearly; and
  • looks good in black and white, as well as in color.

Hallmark’s memorable crown logo is one of the reasons that Hallmark comes to mind so quickly when you need to buy a greeting card. It is simple, bold, looks good in either color or black and white, and bespeaks the quality required for something to be stamped with a hallmark, so it works well with the company name. While the image might not have communicated the nature of the business when it was first created, it certainly does now!

The Second Key Element of Branding; Create a Distinctive Tag Line.

A tag line is a three to seven word phrase that accompanies your logo. It expresses your company’s most important benefits and/or what you want your customers to remember about working with you. Think of it as the words you want to linger in your target customer’s mind about you and what you have to offer.

Great tag lines appear to be effortlessly created because they just seem to flow. In fact, creating and refining one takes time, just like designing a great logo. The benefits of taking the time to craft a great tag line lie with the tag line’s stickiness. Great tag lines stick in your memory.

The Hallmark tag line, “When you care enough to send the very best,” appeals to the human desire to be viewed as having good taste and an appreciation for luxury. If greeting cards are a commodity, then Hallmark has found a way to differentiate itself as the choice for quality.

The Hallmark company was founded by J. C. Hall, so the name Hallmark was a natural. It was also brilliant from a marketing standpoint. Hallmarks have been used for centuries as a stamp to denote quality, purity, and genuineness. Could there be a better way to attach the image of quality to a product? The tag line capitalizes on that image well with words that stick in the mind and exemplify good taste.

Creating a great logo and distinctive tag line are critical in creating a brand that provides the perfect image for your company and great ones just might be memorable enough to give your company the beach front property in the minds of your customers that leaves them thinking only of you.

Karen Saunders is the author of “Turn Eye Appeal into Buy Appeal: How to easily transform your marketing pieces into dazzling, persuasive sales tools!” Hundreds of business owners have used her simple do-it-yourself design system to create stunning marketing materials that really SELL their products and services! FREE audio classes, articles and an eCourse on design and marketing tips are available at