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Extended Gamut Printing Benefits and How To's

Posted October 16, 2021 by Mark Gundlach

Extended Gamut Printing

Increased product variation and lean manufacturing demands are forcing converters to work quicker and more cost-efficiently. Implementing extended gamut printing, also called fixed color palette printing, is a great way for brand owners and designers to specify achievable color, and for converters to reduce press setup time, produce smaller lot sizes, and increase press efficiency.

In this video, X-Rite Pantone Color Expert Mark Gundlach explains extended color gamut/fixed color palette printing and shares the many benefits it can offer brand owners, designers and converters alike.

What is Extended Gamut Printing?

Printing with extended gamut process colors allows for a broader color gamut that includes CMYK plus orange, green and violet. By adding these three additional base inks into the process, you can achieve a much closer match to traditional formulated spot ink colors. For example, orange will look truer and cleaner when orange ink is used, rather than mixing yellow and magenta to achieve a suitable match.


Good: CMYK

CMYK is a less expensive form of process printing but matches only about 55% of PANTONE Spot colors. Missing the mark can become expensive with repeated trial and error approval rounds for results that ultimately aren't always satisfying. 

If you’re producing on a digital press, it may include extended gamut colors or the CMYK colorants may have a greater gamut than traditional CMYK printing because of the higher cost of these colorants. On a digital CMYK device, it’s more typical to match 65% of PANTONE Spot colors.




Seven-color process produces more stable results with cleaner, brighter, crisper effects when compared to CMYK and can match about 90% of PANTONE Spot colors. Save time and money with closer matches to spot colors that are more consistently achievable.




PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM® Spot colors are still the ideal choice for consistent, accurate color reproduction.


The Benefits of ECG

A big production benefit of ECG printing is the printing press can be set up with a “fixed palette” of CMYKOGV inks to produce most of the range of PANTONE+ colors without changing ink between jobs. There is no limit to the number of PANTONE+ colors you can put into a job.

Although a number of large, well-known brands are already achieving amazing results with a fixed palette of colors, there’s still some resistance in the market. One big reason is the fear of “mixing” ink separations and dot patterns on press instead of ink in a bucket, because print and color quality control become key factors. You need a system that provides real-time feedback so the entire run can be monitored, and adjustments can be made right on press.

Brand Owners and Designers

Using PantoneLIVE during the design process can help determine the achievability of PANTONE Spot colors on the target printing technology and substrate. This ensures more accurate color and less variability for consistent color across complex supply chains. Printing extended color gamut more closely matches PANTONE Spot colors on the production run than CMYK.


Printing ECG minimizes or eliminates the need for spot color inks, reducing ink costs and inventories. More than 90% of Pantone colors can be achieved using CMYK plus orange, violet and/or green. Spot color jobs can easily be converted to a fixed color palette using software solutions such as Esko Equinox.

For converters, this means no wash-ups between jobs (since ink colors don’t need to be changed) and the ability to combine multiple jobs in the same run for faster changeovers and reduced makeready time and waste.

Tools of the ECG Trade

Here are five tools that can help you measure, monitor, and control print quality so you can successfully make the switch to extended gamut.

1 - X-Rite eXact

The eXact portable spectrophotometer is the perfect tool for busy pressrooms because it provides accurate and consistent color measurements on a variety of print and packaging substrates. Its cordless operation and innovative color touch screen make it very easy for printers and packaging converters to understand, control, manage, and communicate color from anywhere on the pressroom floor. With configurations for Tone Value, Tone Value Increase (TVI) or Dot Gain, TVI Table, and Print Characteristics, the eXact makes it easy to measure both spot and process colors in extended color gamut printing.

The eXact Xp model addresses the unique challenges of working with packaging film substrates, including lamination materials and base structures. The eXact Auto-Scan extends this ability to read conventional, custom and non-continuous strips on all sizes of packaging applications in under 15 seconds. This can be paired with ColorCert and InkFormulation software to get up-to-color quickly and validate that color is maintained throughout the press run.

Is the eXact Xp right for you? Learn how to determine if your film exhibits interference that can skew your measurement results in this blog, The Key to Controlling Color on Flexible Film.

Press Console eXact 

2 - PantoneLIVE Production

While physical references remain a critical component of a color workflow, digital standards offer a more sophisticated level of connectivity. They are scientific, precise, and repeatable, and the values will not change over time like their physical counterparts. Digital color standards can open the door to consistent color across different substrates, inks, and printing technologies. They can also align multiple print facilities and join components of a larger project much more effectively than working from multiple physical standards.

PANTONE SheetFor design and brands, we offer PantoneLIVE Design to view and specify colors based on specific substrates, print processes, inks, and application methods. It also includes a Visualizer application to preview how Pantone+ spot colors can be expected to reproduce in different printing conditions. For example, you might need to know how a color will reproduce on a flexo printer label as compared to an offset printed folding carton. Also included is an Adobe® Illustrator plug-in to enable the designer to specify these colors in the job and preview the design with accurately rendered Pantone colors on a calibrated monitor.

For printers and converters, we offer the PantoneLIVE Production license. This is used with X-Rite and supported third-party applications for prepress, proofing, ink formulation, and production quality control. This license can also be used within Esko prepress applications to provide the best conversions to extended gamut CMYKOGV colors. This helps ensure that the specified color – spot or extended gamut - is used and achieved consistently throughout the workflow.

4 - ColorCert Suite

The key to quality and consistency in any print and packaging workflow is collection of color data with actionable feedback to help the operator match color standards in the inkroom and at press. ColorCert is modular, job-based solution for controlling print run quality in real time. Utilizing a combination of desktop software, it links every stakeholder in the production workflow, including prepress, inkroom, and pressroom, in one site or many.

Comprehensive reporting capabilities help press operators monitor how the press is running, identify production issues and apply corrective actions, and see real-time results during the run. The ColorCert interface is very easy to use, especially when combined with X-Rite eXact, and presents all the necessary information to make sure the extended color gamut process is successful.

5 - NetProfiler

Your measurements are only as accurate as your devices. NetProfiler quality assurance software monitors your instruments, ensures calibration, and provides history and performance reporting. With NetProfiler, you can verify and optimize the performance of your color measurement instruments in multiple sites around the globe. NetProfiler ensures you can maintain the tightest correlation between all of your instruments.

Making the Switch to Fixed Color Palette Printing

Another reason now is the time to make the switch to an extended ink set is the adoption of CxF/X by the International Standards Organization (ISO 17972-1:2015). Integrating CxF/X into design and workflow applications makes it more convenient and accurate to communicate all aspects of color across the print and packaging workflow.

If you’re a brand owner, designer, converter or printer who wants to learn more about printing with an extended ink set, get in touch. Our Color Experts are always happy to assist.

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