Metallic Ink Printing Breakthrough: Find the Pain, Build a Company

Posted by Rock LaManna

Metallic Ink Printing Breakthrough: Find the Pain, Build a Company

We tend to overcomplicate our approach to business. For all the big data and financial metrics we use to make decisions, sometimes all it takes is finding a solution to a pain point. It’s what led Color-Logic to create their innovative metallic ink system.

Eight years ago, when partners Mark Geeves and Richard Ainge launched Color-Logic their mission was simple: Create a system where designers could use metallics in an easy, cost-effective way.

“Everyone loved using metallics in printing,” Geeves says. “But no one knew to handle it.”

Mark Geeves, Color-Logic

Mark Geeves, Color-Logic

Geeves has a background in color measurement, having worked with big brands like Coca Cola, Procter & Gamble and others. Ainge’s forte was design and prepress. They both had experienced the pain of working with metallics. They knew there had to be a better way.

The Designer’s Pain: The Manual Process

Designers love to use metallics in the printing process. When applied in the proper way (and we’ll get to that in a minute), they can add dimensionality and an entire new range of colors. It’s the WOW factor that brands desperately want.

The pain point has always been on the production side. Designers have always had to use a multi-step process to create a metallic color -- or as Geeves refers to it, “a guesstimate.”

Designers have always had to guesstimate.

For example, if a designer wants a silver-metallic color, they have to create a separate layer in Photoshop of silver, and then add a color on top of it. That’s a purely manual process, with no guarantee of success.

“How do you proof it?” Geeves asks. “How do you test to see if it’s right?”

The Printer’s Pain: Selling Without a Swatch

Designers shied away from metallics because of the manual work involved. But downstream, printers were gun-shy about selling metallics to their clients because they had similar issues. Once again, it was tied to production.

He used buying house paint as an analogy. When you go to the paint store to buy a gallon of paint, you choose from a swatch. And you know your choice will be accurate, because the formulation has already been created.

With metallics, that formulation doesn’t exist. Swatches had to be generated manually from the press, and there was no set way to duplicate colors from printer to printer.

Geeves jokes that with metallics, ICC (the standard used in color management) actually stands for “I can’t calculate.” Here’s Color-Logic’s video on how ICC does not work with metallics. 

 

Taking a Leap of Faith

Geeves and Ainge felt your pain. They’d experienced it themselves, many, many times. It was all the motivation they needed to find a solution, and yes, launch a company.

That was it. No market analysis constructed by a team of accounts and finance experts. Color-Logic didn’t have anyone even asking them for a solution, even though it was an industry-wide problem.

“There was no one compelling us to do this,” Geeves said. “It was a leap of faith.”

Henry Ford once said that if he had asked the customers what they wanted, they would have told him to build a faster horse. Color-Logic’s approach was similar to Ford’s. They couldn’t wait for someone to tell them what innovation looked like. They had to build it themselves.

Expert Interview: Mark Geeves on the Most Important Reason Printers Should Invest in New Technologies

Creating the Marketplace

And build it they did. Color-Logic has created the Process Metallic Color System, in which 250 NEW metallic colors can be produced using only five inks - white plus CMYK or silver plus CMYK. The colors can also be used with foil substrates, silver ink, and other decorative media.

For the designers, the system features a Photoshop plug-in that allows designers to add metallics into an image in 6-8 seconds. “It analyzes the image, determines what percentage to put behind each pixel to get the best reflectivity,” Geeves said.

Even better, they’ve developed a product called FX-Viewer that allows designers to visualize how the metallic appears on the monitor, instead of waiting for the proof.

FX-Viewer

For the printers, Color-Logic created their own pantone guide, a “digital palette.” Printers can easily use it to produce the swatch off the digital press. Mathematically, Color-Logic could have produced 1.4 million colors, but they targeted 250.

“We picked the saturated areas,” Geeves said, although their Touch7 extended color system allows for orange, green, violet and blue.

Training Designers on the 25-30% Rule

Color-Logic’s metallic system is billed as the “world’s first color communication system for printing on to foil and reflective substrates when using white ink and CMYK.” But now the big challenge is educating people on the system.

In time, the system may have a “build it and they will come” appeal. For right now, Color-Logic’s focus is on explaining the new possibilities to designers and printers.

The tendency is to use more metallic color than is necessar 

With designers, the usability of the system isn’t an issue; it’s the application. The tendency is to use more metallic color than is necessary. “It should only be 25-30% of the design,” Geeves said.

Using it as an enhancement to the main image gives the art dimensionality -- the WOW factor that brands so desperately crave.

Printers Need to Share the Possibilities - or Others Will

Geeves finds the biggest obstacle with printers is their reluctancy to share Color-Logic’s capabilities with their big-brand clientele.

He’s heard from numerous printers, “My brand customers aren’t asking for this.” Yet when Geeves has presented Color-Logic’s capabilities directly to a large brand, he heard a different story.

“I told the brand the printers weren’t offering it because no one had requested it,” Geeves recalls. “And they said, ‘How the hell can we ask for it if we didn’t know it existed?’ “

How can we ask if we didn't know it existed?

Geeves isn’t sweating it if the response is tepid in the United States, because the international markets are moving on the technology. “When we started the company, 60% of our sales were outside the US,” he said. “In the first quarter of 2017, 90% of sales were international.”

It’s More About Good Business Than Taking Risks

When Color-Logic embarked on their journey -- one filled with years of ups and downs -- they did it for one simple reason: They wanted to ease someone else’s pain.

We don’t expect everyone to take a gigantic risk like the folks at Color-Logic. But we do think everyone should emulate their simplistic approach with your customers. Find out where they’re hurting, and give them a solution.

Is it really that simple? Judging by the success of Color-Logic, the answer would have to be yes.

New Call-to-action

Topics: New Technologies, Printing Business