Orange is not the new black

One big worry for people designing their merchandise for the first time, or switching to a new supplier, is the colour matching of garments. Nobody wants an orange that turns on red or a blue that ends up purple. Whilst these discrepancies seem quite extreme, even a difference in one shade can become quite obvious when a team lines up side by side.

When we are talking about colour matching garments we are generally talking about sublimation printing. Although cut and sew garments often have the same issue – this can easily be explained by factories using different fabric sources or different batches of dyed fabrics.

Sublimation has a few more extra reasons. Not only does the same ink show slightly differently on different fabrics, different printers can also result in an inconsistency. Another problem is people choosing or colour matching via a screen. Each computer monitor is going to show colours differently so never use this as a source of truth. To give a more technical explanation -digital colours (as in those on your computer screen) are created through RGB (red, green, blue) colour coding, whilst printers use CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) or for even better accuracy Pantone codes. Each of these system produce the colour in a different way hence a discrepancy.

Another reason for differences is the quality and type of ink used. With the higher quality inks having a greater consistency. This should not be confused with the simple mistake of poor workmanship and a lack of care from the workers. This is the most frustrating and easily fixed but is all too common amongst factories, particularly those with little exposure to the western market and its high standards.

Whilst it is impossible to guarantee 100% accuracy there are ways to manage these issues. Because of the discrepancies between suppliers always look to minimise colour problems by using pantone colour matching. A number of test prints based on the instructed pantone colour can then be used to compare this against the universal Pantone colour books. The second way to colour match is via providing an existing garment.

More important than both of the above is stressing to your supplier how important colour matching is to you and being aware that the more accuracy that you require the longer the process may take. This allows your supplier to explore every avenue to get the best result for your garments.