The best CMYK match for Cadmium Orange

Spoiler: There isn’t one. But read on to understand why.

Perfect for Halloween: a post about orange!

I had a request earlier in October 2018 from an Etsy customer in Brooklyn who wanted a custom print created of the phrase בשבילי נברא העולם (“The world was created for me“), with “for me” in orange “to match Moully’s ‘Orange Socks’.”

*Note: she didn’t ask me for ואנכי עפר ואפר but now I feel perhaps I should create this as a two-sided laminated pocket card. :-)

I wasn’t familiar with Moully, but Rav Google quickly brought me to Yitzchok Moully, the Pop Art Rabbi, and his popular little painting [Hasidim in] Orange Socks.

"Hasid in Orange Socks" by Yitzchok Moully.

“Hassid in Orange Socks” by Yitzchok Moully.

I saved down an image of the painting from his website, sampled the orange color directly from it, designed a layout of the text, and sent a proof to my customer. She approved it, so I output a color laser print and shipped it off to Brooklyn. Easy-peasy. Right?

On Tuesday, I got another message: She was unhappy. Why? Because the printed version was a “burnt orange” rather than the “true orange” she had approved onscreen.

While it hadn’t occurred to me ahead of time that this would be an issue, I should have known better. Bright orange (along with bright green) is notoriously difficult to produce in a CMYK 4-color system, such as commercial process printing—or a conventional laser printer.

In fact, industry leader Pantone developed an entirely new 6-color printing system called Hexachrome that addressed this problem by adding actual orange and green inks to the standard process palette of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. One year at the Bookbuilders of Boston book show, I saw a book on tree frogs printed in Hexachrome, and it was utterly stunning, so much so that it’s still fresh in my mind. You couldn’t invent a better use case to showcase the capabilities of Hexachrome (which, sadly, was discontinued in 2008, no doubt due to a dearth of scholarship on tree frogs).

But all this wasn’t helping my Brooklyn customer, who just wants a print that will match what she sees onscreen. It sounds like a simple request!

I was not at all sure how to overcome this discrepancy remotely, so the solution I offered was to work up a few variations with alternate shades and send her prints of all of them. As I got started, however, I thought: Why not go to the source? Maybe the artist has already dealt with this issue and could make a suggestion? So I returned to Rabbi Moully’s website and submitted a contact form inquiry, explaining my situation, and asking if he could recommend the best settings for a CMYK match.

Not 5 minutes later, my phone rang with an unknown New Jersey number, and it was Yitzchok Moully calling from his cell, stuck in traffic while driving the carpool. “I figured I might as well call!”

He let me know that the original painting used straight Cadmium Orange, which is pretty classic… and thoroughly unreproducible in 4-color process printing. However, there are several possible spot-to-process conversions cited as a “true orange”. So, starting with the first shade my customer had rejected, and lightening up from there, I ended up with 8 possibilities.

These are the 8 shades I sent her:

#1: RGB 230-75-9
This was my original offering, but when I printed it off, I could definitely see why the customer thought it was too red.

#2: RGB 253-84-5
This is a second shade I sampled from Moully’s JPEG image. It looks good onscreen, but still looks dark when printed in CMYK. (The CMYK conversion is done on the fly by the printer driver, so I don’t know the exact conversion values.)

#3: C0 M75 Y99 K0

#4: C0 M62 Y97 K0
This was the one I liked when printed, and what I’ve chosen to use going forward.

#5: C0 M43 Y81 K7

#6: C0 M51 Y100 K0
To my surprise, this was the one my client picked as her preferred match. It’s a shade that I had found published as an equivalent of Pantone 152 (although Pantone officially recommends C0 M61 Y100 K0, which has 20% more red [that is, magenta] in it).

#7: C0 M48 Y95 K0
A possible equivalent of Pantone 151.

#8: C0 M35 Y90 K0
A possible equivalent of Pantone 137. Obviously this is the most yellow (or rather, least magenta) of the selections.

Moral of the story: It all depends what you think a “true orange” really is! … And also on your screen vs. printer calibrations, but that’s a topic for another day.

One thought on “The best CMYK match for Cadmium Orange

  1. Pingback: Bishvili Nivra HaOlam, or, The two pockets | Erica Schultz Yakovetz

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