Paying attention to details can help you get the most out of your investment in a color matching system, get you the best color match accuracy, and get your colors approved in the fewest hits.
It's all about the database. Or what's under the hood? Color matching starts and ends with your color matching database. How good is it? How old is it? Just a few years out-of-date is a lifetime in technology improvements; five or more years borders on Paleolithic.
- Sampling sense. Were your samples prepared in a manner consistent with how you actually manufacture your product? Are the raw materials (colorants, bases, resins, substrates) you use today the same as you used when the database was prepared?
- Reliable replication. Good science and good business practice require that results be replicable, easily and consistently. Will a sample made by your lab technician today match your original used in the database? When preparing a new database, use your most skilled technician. Temporary employees are barely a good idea at your reception desk, let alone a temp managing your colorant database. Tighten up procedures and your color matching accuracy will tighten up too.
- Trust everyone but cut the cards. Check your incoming raw materials, especially the colorants, for shade and strength. Don't assume they are always 100 percent strength and exactly the correct shade.
- Standardize. Use standardized lots of colorants when you make samples. Get a COA from your supplier and note which lots were used to prepare the database.
- Duh! Not quite as fundamental as, "Is it plugged in?" but be sure your database is properly loaded. You'll never get the right results with a database incorrectly loaded. Look for negative data and wayward levels on the colorant build curve.
- Optimize, then verify. Optimize the database and validate it using known samples. Repeat the process of validating the database using known mixtures at least once a year.
- Know what you know... and what you don't know. Be sure you truly understand how to run your software. More important, be sure you know how to interpret the results and pick the best match for the task at hand.
- Think first, select second. Consider how the colorant combination will work in production before automatically selecting the "Best Match." Getting a practical, workable formulation up front makes production adjustments easier and causes fewer difficulties later.
- Apples to apples. Make sure your database was measured on the same instrument you are using. Differences between instruments will directly result in less accuracy in your matches and corrections. Using a "canned" database can seem like a good idea because it saves time and lab resources and pushes the responsibility onto someone else. However, if your measurements, procedures, and raw materials don't exactly duplicate those used to prepare the database, you may be very disappointed in your matches.
Are you happy with the way your colorant database is matching?