How to colour match your labels & tags and why it’s important

Why is colour matching important?

Perfect branding

Talk to any marketer or brand manager and they’ll tell you that a perfect colour match on product pack front labels is vitally important. Consistency is king in branding and especially where products sit next to one another on supermarket shelves, it’s vital that any perceptible colour variations are avoided.

Companies spend big budgets on branding; pack front labels are an important customer-facing representation of the brand and so must be accurate.

Operational issues

Beyond branding, colour matching is important in an operational environment too.

Imagine the situation where two variations of a ‘yellow’ allergen tag are used to denote different allergen ingredients? The tags may have been in operation for many years and over that time as new batches are printed, the colour may ‘drift’ from the original just a little. Now, it’s likely that when the tags are viewed alongside each other they can still be easily identified – after all the human eye can perceive quite small differences in a coloured tag. However, what if the coloured tags are seen individually, could an operative tell that they had selected the correct ‘yellow’ tag?

The consequences of confusing allergen tags could be devastating.

Medical settings and clinical trials

Near perfect colour matching for pharmaceutical labels like test tube labels, blister pack labels and medicine labels used for clinical trials is another area where the stakes are high. Imagine jeopardising a protracted clinical trial because patients or clinicians perceive a difference in packaging and think they have identified a placebo drug?

What’s the answer?

Pantone colour guide books

Pantone colour guide books are still the main source for many print settings and are often enough to give a good colour match for operational tags and labels. However, where precise colour matching is vital a more sophisticated process needs to be used.

Delta E values

A complex set of algorithms have been developed by scientists to measure the difference between two colours. Known as Delta E values, they measure the difference or ‘drift’ between two colour samples.

Simply put a Delta E value of one is the smallest colour difference that the human eye can see. A Delta E value of between one to two may be perceptible through very close inspection of a label or tag but is generally deemed to be an acceptable standard for colour difference.

If the  Delta E value is over two, then the colour difference is more likely to be noticeable; in most cases, this level of colour drift wouldn’t be acceptable for pack front labels, some operational labels and tags or pharmaceutical labels.

The benefit of using this sophisticated method of colour measurement is that it takes away subjectivity and gives a clear starting point from which to correct any issues.

Want to see for yourself?

If you have a label or tag that you think may have colour drifted from the original or throughout a batch, then we’d be happy to test it for you using our X-Rite Exact Spectrophotometer. Please get in touch and we’d be happy to help.