Other speakers adding their voices to this topic were Hauke Liefferink, MD of Acme Graphics (recently Opaltone certified), Paul Rich, technical director of CAE (Opaltone’s official South African representative), and Ricky Ali and Graham Palmer of Hi-Tech Inks – supplier of Opaltone inks in South Africa, having undergone Opaltone certification and purchased licensing rights to sell Opaltone flexographic and gravure inks in Southern Africa.
The theme for Matthew’s presentation was ‘goodbye spot colours, hello process spots’. By this he refers to the digital simulation of literally thousands of spot colours to help flexo printers implement massive savings in downtime and to minimise ink, solvent and substrate waste.
Opaltone is what Matthew describes as the ‘true digital colour reproduction system’. Emphasising his point that spot colour printing is an antiquated ‘analogue’ technology, he went on to explain to IPSA members how the Opaltone system mixes colour in the screens/dots, not in the ink can.
As he pithily put it: ‘Dolby is to sound as OT7 is to print.’
Well that’s certainly an interesting way of looking at ink technology!
‘For the first time,’ Matthew insisted, ‘OT7 calibration finally delivers a virtual colour reference throughout the entire production chain.’
This means that printers can now provide brand owners with the print consistency, repeatability and superior ‘off-the-shelf’ graphics they’re constantly demanding.
Opaltone inkjet proofing has bridged the gap by delivering a six-colour (no K) accurate proof with 100% pigment inks. As the same OT7 ink standard is matched, the proof and print will always match. Opaltone inkjet proofing can also provide CMYK + accurate spot colours (ie for existing Pantone designs).
Standard seven-colour process inks not only give enhanced consistency and savings for ink manufacturers (no more in-plants are required for mixing large numbers of spot colours), but also allow flexo printers to standardise their anilox rolls (multiple anilox inventories with varying line screens and volumes become redundant).
Finally, he mentioned the environmental benefits of using less ink and eliminating solvent waste. ‘The best way to reduce ink wash-ups is to eliminate them,’ was his apt conclusion.
Understanding the impact on printed material
Equally compelling was the story from Acme Graphics, whose MD, Hauke Lifferink, related his relationship with Opaltone and the benefits the system brings to his business.
During his research into the challenges of providing extended-gamut printing, he discovered that Opaltone was the missing piece of the puzzle. ‘Although Opaltone wasn’t new, the ability to proof it using the actual Opaltone ink set and the ability to separate and colour adjust with great efficiency made it the first commercially-viable colour model of its kind,’ he maintained.
‘Whereas other multicolour ink models added inks to attempt to address colours (greens, oranges, violets), they were ill conceived, like treating the symptoms as opposed addressing the cause,’ Hauke argued.
‘Opaltone’s extra-trinary red, green and blue process inks sit perfectly between existing CMY primaries. What’s more, equal parts of R’G’B’ trap to produce a neutral grey balance, eliminating the “process black” flexo plate. Now only one line black is needed for UPC and text.’
The impact Opaltone has on visual appearance of printed material is not widely understood. In Hauke’s view, the best illustration is to compare the old cathode ray tube TV with the latest LED TV. ‘I cannot imagine a brand owner going back to CMYK after seeing his product printed in CMY+R’G’B’,’ Hauke contended.
And designers and ad agencies supplying artwork on disc needn’t worry about designing in CMYK as these elements are ‘expanded’ in saturated areas into the full Opaltone colour gamut. ‘So design in CMYK or RGB or spots. All can be converted or “expanded” into Opaltone,’ Hauke added.
Spot colours in flexo specifically can now be accurately printed at a much higher line screen. Previously, flexo inks and ink mixing systems did not allow printers to achieve target density on spot colours when running aniloxes capable of reproducing fine line screens. Imagine attempting to print tones in a spot colour at 200lpi? With spot colours this is impossible but with Opaltone spot colour simulation it can be the norm.
Also proofing spot colour traps was highly inaccurate. Imagine a product with spot orange, spot violet and process cyan trapping (overprinting) one another’s tones. Proofing this was impossible since the transparencies and sequencing of these inks were unknown to the proofer. With Opaltone the proofer is fully aware of these factors and such proofs are now reproducible on press.
Furthermore, simulated spot colours can be printed at target density with great consistency. This is illustrated by looking at a spot colour guide and comparing a spot colour on one of the first pages to the same colour on a subsequent page. A a dramatic difference can be seen, and the question is which is correct? ‘That’s why we’re finding that Opaltone has closer Delta E matches to spot colours than many spot colours have to their intended targets in flexo.’ Hauke declared.
‘We’ve also discovered that colour is more easily balanced using Opaltone than CMYK. How can that be? How can juggling seven balls (CMYKRGB) be easier than juggling four (CMYK)? The answer is surprising. Imagine attempting to create a bluish colour using 50% cyan and 50% magenta. Balancing density and tone becomes critical. If one ink gains over the other, a dramatic shift takes place, not so much in density, but in hue. With Opaltone, though, the same colour would primarily be made up of Opaltone blue, so changes in density and tone of complementary colours would have a far smaller effect on the hue.’
Ultimately colours generated in Opaltone are clean in the sense that it’s possible to control the number of complementary inks to create the colour and total area coverage needs to be no more than in CMYK.
Acme Graphics is ready to support printers (offset, dry offset, flexo and gravure), brand owners, designers and ad agencies with advanced Opaltone prepress and/or plates to leverage the benefits this exciting product can offer.
[Ed’s note: We hope to report a return of Matthew Bernasconi from Opaltone in Australia to give a presentation at the next FTASA seminar, to be held alongside this year’s Print Excellence Awards.]