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"Pantone's Foil Stamping Color Guide: A New Industry Milestone"
Column #16, 4/96]

By now, many of you are aware that Pantone, Inc. and the Foil Stamping & Embossing Association (FSEA) recently released the PANTONE¨ Foil Stamping Color Guide. Being marketed worldwide, it is based on the same concept as the widely used PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM and contains a range of 112 commonly used foil colors. They're categorized into five sections: Bright and satin golds and silvers on coated stock, metallized colors on coated stock, bright and satin golds and silvers on uncoated stock, metallized colors on uncoated stock and pigmented and pearlescent colors, simulating PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM colors, on coated stock.

I have been aware of this important venture since its conception. My company wholeheartedly embraces the PANTONE publication. While I'm sure there will be certain large finishers who will resist using the Guide, due to the fact that they, along with a couple of their chosen manufacturers, have developed their own foil color system, I'm confident it won't be long before the PANTONE guide becomes the accepted standard.

The Guide is the result of months of meetings and tests, under the auspices of the Pantone Industry Standards project, conducted by FSEA and Pantone. According to FSEA spokesperson Mary Fuller, the group came together to "develop an industry color standard for the selection, specification, and communication of foils for the graphic arts industry." Hats off to these two organizations for tackling this difficult project. And let's hope they will continue to build upon this very important first publication.

Everybody wins. The entire industry benefits from the new PANTONE guide. It brings finishers the same kind of control the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM gives you and your customers. It will save us untold hours of sorting through stacks of manufacturers' charts trying to match a color that you or your customer specified.

Customers will be more likely to specify foil stamping, if they can be assured of consistent color and quality, the PANTONE name adds credibility to this preemies, and if it's made easy, which the PANTONE guide promises to do.

In turn, increased use of foil stamping will please manufacturers. In fact, Pantone has found that distribution of the Guide itself is generating increased interest in foil stamping.

An important part of the FSEA/Pantone project is the licensing of hot stamping foil manufacturers by Pantone. In exchange for adhering to the foil color guide, licensees can use PANTONE trademarks and copyrighted number schemes in their own marketing materials. As of this writing, five major foil manufacturers are licensed by Pantone, and have begun the process of matching and submitting their foil colors to the company for approval. To hasten use of the Guide, Pantone issues licenses to manufacturers who may not have matched all the Guide's foil colors, but at least have begun the process. To retain a license, however, the foil manufacturers will match all foil in the Guide within their existing product ranges.

While foil stamping and embossing have been liberally used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical packaging for decades, their use on other products has been limited. But designers, ever on the lookout for new ways to distinguish their designs from other products in the marketplace, increasingly have been applying foil stamping to their materials. Manufacturers, for their part, have helped fan the interest by continually adding new and unusual types of foil and color mixes to their product lines.

From the printer's viewpoint, foil stamping is a value-added process. It is less dollar-driven than other, more common finishing processes, such as binding and saddlestitching. This means that foil stamping has the potential to be profitable for both printer and finisher. But, high profit margins are contingent upon efficient production methods. The PANTONE guide will help us give you quicker turnaround and consistent quality.

The way it was. Remember what it was like before 1963 when each ink company had its own color charts? A customer dealt with his ink company and you had your own favorites. Ordering ink was fraught with problems: the customer would specify an ink color, forcing you to shuffle through your charts to try to find a manufacturer's ink that came closest to matching. Unless you dealt with the client's manufacturer, chances of an exact match were slim to none. But, in the end, you always had the opportunity to tweak the color on press.

We obviously don't have that option with foils. Plus, color matching hot stamping foils is even more difficult than ink matching, since foil manufacturing involves a multi-stepped process of laying down four to five layers of foil material onto a polyester film. Even slight variations in production, due to differences in equipment or chemical mixtures, can result in significant visual differences in the finished product. By introducing standards, in terms of color and quality, Pantone can ensure that its licensed manufacturers are able to provide a high level of consistency from batch to batch.

More to do. There's more work to be done, of course. Pantone needs to bring more manufacturers into its fold. Manufacturers need to continue to add to the spectrum of foils included in the initial guide. Printers and finishers must promote the guide to customers and suppliers. And customers need to begin using it, so it becomes as familiar to them as the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM colors.

Finally, we all must begin the process of defining quality criteria for each of our other production methods: folding, scoring, bindings, coatings, varnishes, film lamination, etc. Whether we like it or not, much of the work in our industry is still price-driven. While we need to be adding value to our services in order to increase profitability, at the same time we should be working toward documenting quality standards for our products and adjusting our internal manufacturing systems to meet them. Only then will we be able to achieve maximum production efficiency. Equally important, we'll be better able to communicate to customers what industry standards are for acceptable quality.

The PANTONE¨ Foil Stamping Color Guide is a giant step toward that goal. The Guide is available for a suggested retail price of $19.95 and can be ordered through the FSEA or by contacting Pantone Customer Service (800) 222-1149. The FSEA, by the way, is still raising money to cover the cost of the initial publication. Send contributions to Mary Fuller, executive director, FSEA, P.O. Box 56652, Washington, DC 20040.

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