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RGB-Optimized Graphics


TruColor

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I've been continuing to work on my database as far as changing over to the new PANTONE PLUS set of color values (which replaces the old PMS system), and have also been looking at my RGB optimizations and how they apply to graphics representing how a logo would look on coated paper vs. uncoated. I have certainly been able to do this in the past, but I wanted to take the time now to show the differences.

As you all probably already know, when you specify a Pantone swatch in Illustrator, you can select from either a "coated" set of swatches, or "uncoated" (you also have the option to select from matte - or 'M' - but those have now been discontinued by Pantone). These represent a color as it would look if printed on a particular paper stock. I'm often seeing designers "mix" these substrates in one design - for example 301 U for a Blue, and 116 C for a Yellow, and so on - but I don't believe that this is correct. These extensions (or substrates) apply to the medium being used to print the graphic. You can't have the Blue portions of the logo print 'uncoated', and the Yellow on 'coated'.

Pantone specifies RGB measurements for representing these differences between the substrates. The differences are pretty amazing - I have taken a number of NBA graphics and applied the different swatches to them to convert from a 'coated' representation to an 'uncoated'. Here are a few examples - click on each graphic to see a larger version (coated on the left, uncoated on the right):

th_GoldenStateWarriors_PML1a_1998-2010.png th_GoldenStateWarriors_PML1b_1998-2010.png

th_PhoenixSuns_PML1a_2001-9999.png th_PhoenixSuns_PML1b_2001-9999.png

th_UtahJazz_PML1a_1997-2004.png th_UtahJazz_PML1b_1997-2004.png

th_UtahJazz_PML1a_2005-2010.png th_UtahJazz_PML1b_2005-2010.png

th_UtahJazz_PML1a_2011-9999.png th_UtahJazz_PML1b_2011-9999.png

I have noticed in my research that in some cases, different Pantone values are specified to represent a color on uncoated stock vs. coated stock. For example, a logo might use 1235 C to use on coated paper stock, but 116 U for uncoated stock.

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You are spot on with your assessment. Whether you have a coated or uncoated swatchbook, or are specifying 'C' or 'U' colors in your Illustrator document, the PANTONE® inks used to print the colors are the same. There isn't a special set of 'uncoated' inks that will magically give you a dull finish. The only difference is the paper. Granted the paper makes the colors look much different, but one can not order a can of Red 032 C and a can of Red 032 U. You order a can of Red 032, and it looks different depending on the paper. As you can see here, the colors are less intense on uncoated paper, but they also tend to dry a bit darker on uncoated paper than on coated paper, which may not be evident in these images.

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To add onto what Andrew said, paper is really the key. You can have the brightest spot colors on the wrong paper and those colors will come out dull. What is the difference between uncoated and coated paper? Uncoated paper, the inks seep into the paper and will give you the darker color and if I'm not mistaken, the inks will actually mix a bit. Where as coated paper keeps the inks on top of the paper and that keeps the intensity of the ink.

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Thanks for the input guys. Another thing that a lot of people don't seem to understand is how CMYK relates to Pantone colors. CMYK (and certainly RGB for that matter) are just simulations of the color. In fact, you need different CMYK recipes to reproduce a single color on different paper stocks. Using Andrew's example of Red 032, here is a summary screen shot of information relating to PANTONE Red 032 and how they differ between coated and uncoated:

PLS_Red032_C_SRGB_Summary.png

PLS_Red032_U_SRGB_Summary.png

Different RGB values, different CMYK values, and most importantly, different CIE-L*ab values (which drive the whole thing, but I digress!).

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