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.

Poppin: Gorgeous office supplies for color nerds

I first saw it in a Facebook ad. I try to avoid EVER clicking Facebook’s sidebar ads, but the picture in this one was so appealing, I couldn’t resist: a spotless white office desk tricked out with a whole suite of beautiful, brightly colored, matching office supplies.

This was my introduction to Poppin, whose mission statement begins, “Poppin believes you should be able to surround yourself with objects of beauty everywhere you go and in everything that you do.” Founded in 2009 by NYC entrepreneurs with a background in fashion (explains the killer aesthetics, right?), the company was publicly launched in September 2012, but it’s only more recently that their impressive PR is really gaining traction.

The sheer glossy perfection of it was what got me. I was in awe. Not just visually, but technically: How do you even achieve that kind of color matching across a dozen different materials and manufacturers? (It turns out that this was, indeed, a nontrivial issue for them.) I emailed the Shop By Color link straightaway to my BFF (an avowed devotee of all things purple). I followed Poppin on Pinterest. And then on Twitter. I was hooked.

But it wasn’t enough for me to lovingly browse the color selections. I had to know: What were the specs for the 16 colors?? With a few minutes of poking around their website style sheets, I managed to uncover the official hex/RGB codes. But even more specifically, I wanted to know if they had officially designated corresponding swatches in the industry-standard Pantone Matching System, or PMS. Read more about Pantone here.

I couldn’t find any mention of Pantone in their FAQ, but luckily, Poppin also encourages you to email questions to their “Work Stylist” team. So I did. Not 45 minutes later, team member Shannon sent me a perky response email with an attached PDF document — an array of the 16 swatches with their PMS numbers. My respect for the company ratcheted up several more notches.

I asked her if I could share the breakdown, and she said “feel free to spread the info!”, so here it is:

Name Hex RGB Pantone
White  #ffffff  R: 255 G: 255 B: 255 n/a*
Yellow  #ffd200  R: 255 G: 210 B: 0 PMS 116C
Orange  #f47b20  R: 244 G: 123 B: 32 PMS 166C
Coral  #ff6666  R: 255 G: 102 B: 102 PMS 178C
Red  #d31245  R: 211 G: 18 B: 69 PMS 200C
Pink  #eb4498  R: 235 G: 68 B: 152 PMS 219C
Lime Green  #c1d82f  R: 193 G: 216 B: 47 PMS 382C
Mint  #abd2aa  R: 171 G: 210 B: 170 PMS 2254C
Aqua  #68c8c6  R: 104 G: 200 B: 198 PMS 325C
Pool Blue  #00a5d9  R: 0 G: 165 B: 217 PMS 639C
Navy  #00457c  R: 0 G: 69 B: 124 PMS 295C
Purple  #52247f  R: 82 G: 36 B: 127 PMS 2617C
Light Gray  #c5c6c8  R: 197 G: 198 B: 200 PMS 421C
Silver  n/a**   PMS 877C
Gold  n/a**   PMS 871C
Black  #000000  R: 0 G: 0 B: 0 PMS Black 6C

*Pantone does actually offer a selection of white shades, but Poppin didn’t spec one. :-)
** These metallics are represented on their website with background GIFs instead of solid CSS color blocks.

For now, the CMYK equivalents (for use in four-color process printing, including your home or office laser printer) are left as an exercise to the reader. (Pro tip: InDesign will give you a reasonable conversion right in your Swatches library if you create a swatch of your target PMS color, then convert to CMYK. This will give you a slightly better match than converting from an RGB swatch, since those can be tricky to render with the same vibrancy in CMYK.)

Guess what else? If your branding colors happen to be in the above set, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can also order your choice of custom imprinted products. (Some stellar product placement on that page, BTW. Internet cachet cuts both ways!)

So which are my personal favorite shades of the collection? If you’ve seen my design homepage, it’s no surprise that I’m torn between Lime Green (canonically the most “Erica” of colors) and Pool Blue.

I look forward to seeing what else they add to the menu as the company grows.

Color (three happy and one sad)

1. gilana, call your office: Pantone consumer products!
http://ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com/2007/06/pantone-stuff-plusdinnerware-on-sale.html
http://ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com/2008/03/pantone-makes-your-world-more-colorful.html
http://ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com/2008/12/pantone-party-continues-with-more-new.html
http://ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com/2009/01/pantone-continues-their-colorful.html (I’m especially dying from this one: Gap meets Pantone! And I missed it!)
http://ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com/2009/03/pantone-plenty-again-now-for-kitchen.html
http://ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com/2009/10/pantone-folding-chairs-storage-boxes.html

2. Out of the sheer kindness of her little heart, sen-ichi-rei made me hand-knitted gloves! Fingerless gloves, perfect for computing! They are purple and green!

3. In unrelated news, as of this morning, my office has new carpeting which is blue and purple and — not really any green, but still also pretty.

4. Storyteller and local character Brother Blue passed away last night. Alav ha-shalom.