Getting colour right - 4 tips to nail colour management

* 4 min read

Colour is more important than you think. With consumers making split-second decisions about purchase from increasingly noisy shelves, bland packaging isn’t going to cut it. Colour is intrinsic to a brand’s personality and a vital part of how it is perceived. It’s little surprise then that brands choose their colour palette very carefully.

It all starts with our brains. We’re hardwired to respond to colours, registering them before both shapes and fonts. In fact, according to a 2007 study by a Maryland university, the correct use of colour could increase brand recognition by up to 80 per cent.

Most brands are crystal clear on the need for achieving colour consistency, devoting time, effort and money to ensure quality across their entire offering. But what are the best practices when it comes to colour?

At Sun Branding Solutions, colour management is our bread and butter. We’ve been offering graphics reproduction services for over a century. As a teaser to our upcoming whitepaper on the topic of colour consistency, Dean Amato, operations manager at Sun Branding Solutions Graphics weighs in on how to get colour right. Have a read below – and keep your eyes peeled for our new paper.  

Keep it simple and stand out

First off, you’ve got to make sure you choose the right colour. Each colour carries with it a different mood or feeling and savvy companies are attuned to that. For instance, red makes us stop in our tracks, while greens and blues are more soothing to look at. Brands go for colours that capture our attention, not ones that are lazy on the eye.

Nonetheless, because many brands use the same colours it’s essential to have a shade or hue of your own to stand out. Take Cadbury’s purple, otherwise known as Pantone 2865. It’s a unique shade that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. In fact, Cadbury’s has been using a purple colour on its chocolate wrappers since the early 20th century. The long-standing associations purple has for its customers is incredibly valuable, and the brand has fought to keep it closely guarded for that very reason.


Like Coke, the Cadbury’s design is especially powerful because there’s little else on the pack. Other than typography, it’s simple, pure colour coverage. Colour is a boon to brands that aren’t required to include much information on-pack. One element of colour is enough to trigger brand recognition.

Set the bar high

The interplay between colour and brand recognition is also closely linked to loyalty and trust. As we know, colour is linked with emotion as well as mood. The quality of the colour on-pack is irremovable from customers’ desire to know what they’re getting.

For the biggest players especially, there’s a lot at stake. It’s no easy feat ensuring consistency across different substrates, materials and containers. Add to that selling a product in various different countries, and ensuring consistency can be a tremendous logistical challenge.  

In the same way that you expect your purchase to taste exactly the same each time round, brands must set the same standard with colour. If your design is less vibrant or of a poorer quality, there is the feeling that what’s inside is somehow of lesser quality too. Colour is a recipe – and the best chefs deliver without fail.

Technology and expertise

For a brand like Heinz, its colour is synonymous with its offering. When you think baked beans you think Heinz Beanz – and that mental image is a distinctive shade of blue.

As Heinz Beanz packaging expanded beyond the traditional can labels, Heinz called in our graphics team to help deliver consistency across other modern materials such as litho, gravure and flexo. Each printer had their own interpretation of the master colour set by Heinz meaning there was no process to ensure all items were aligned.

Using brand colour management technology PantoneLIVE, we achieved colour control throughout the entire design, artwork and prepress process. We scientifically defined the ‘Heinz Beanz’ blue to reduce variation and created colour standards for all packaging substrates and production processes.  Ultimately, we reduced colour difference significantly – from dE8.9 to dE1 and achieved colour consistency across all packaging substrates and all print processes.


The importance of building relationships

Although colour consistency is brought about through a mixture of expertise, the right software and technology, there’s always room to build better relationships too.

Graphics and reproduction is a process that includes a client, a printer and the colour specialist in between. At times, printers and clients are separated by a long distance of systems and processes before the final result. So it’s crucial that all parties are open with each other to ensure the best result. You have to be realistic about what you can achieve and by communicating well with everybody involved, margins of error can be reduced significantly. Machines help, but in the end it’s the experience of working together that counts.