How Light Impacts the Printing and Packaging Industry

Manchester, England

How many times have you chosen a paint colour for a room at home in your local DIY store only to find that once it’s on the wall it’s not quite the shade you expected? Or bought a dress or shirt which looks different once you get it home?

Many variables influence how colour is represented — from the way a room faces, the time of day, and whether the light is natural or artificial.

You also might have just picked the wrong shade of colour! But more likely, you are experiencing the scientific anomaly called Metamerism. This is where you have a colour that visually changes under different lighting conditions. It not only affects paints and dresses; nearly any object can be described as being metameric.

What is metamerism?

In print and packaging we have to consider the effect of metamerism when formulating what inks to use and what pigments to blend when trying to achieve an accurate colour match. Imagine a scenario where a major brand launches a new product only to find when it reaches the store shelf the brand colour changes dramatically under the retail lighting conditions.

We can’t forget “the dress” photograph that went viral in 2015 — viewers disagreed over whether the colours of the item depicted were black and blue or white and gold. The response took over social media — millions used the hashtags: #BlackAndBlue and #WhiteAndGold to weigh in on what they saw.

There are many industry standards for various lighting conditions. These range from daylight to fluorescent to the incandescent lighting we have in our living rooms at home.

Retailers also have a range of lighting conditions that have been developed over years — adding to the options that we have to consider when setting a colour standard.

Lighting conditions.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to lighting conditions. Artwork for the printing and packaging industry would normally be set up for a D50 (Daylight) condition. But we then have to think about where the product will end up being viewed.

The Simultaneous Colour Viewer (SCV) is designed to help detect metamerism. This device tests the colour harmony by comparing colours side-by-side under four different light sources:

• Daylight


• Store light

• Home light incandescent

If it's a retailer, then which one? Or even a warehouse environment with CWF (Cool White Florescent) lighting.

Setting new standards.

Part of what we do in the ColourLab at Schawk is take all of these variables into account when we set a brand colour standard. We consult with our clients to make sure we have the correct information and then analyse our colour recipes to make sure we know how a colour will behave under all the relevant lighting conditions.

This means we can finely tune and adjust our processes to compensate for any colour shift that would have been costly for our brand clients.

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