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Color-Matching Ink Systems from the Ground Up

(February 2007) posted on Thu Feb 22, 2007

Discover what types of mixing systems are available, how to use them, and where you can get them.

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By Thomas Trimingham

It's important to investigate the specific system that you decide you want to use so that you can set up your environment appropriately for that system's style of ink mixing.

The basics of setting up an ink-mixing environment (Figure 2) are as follows:

1. Set aside a designated area with enough space to store 20 or so inks in separate containers that are within easy reach. Try to prevent a lot of bending over when containers need to be handled. Much of what we call environmental efficiency relates to how many steps are necessary to do a mixing task. A large, solid counter space that is resistant to solvents can help streamline the workflow.

2. Check the lighting in the mixing area! The best lighting setup provides even illumination in a day-light color temperture. The press area should be lit by a similar source to ensure consistency in samples and strike-offs.

3. Determine which method best suits your shop and ink system for getting ink in and out of the containers. Some printers will joke about this idea (just dump it out, right?), but it is easily one of the largest time wasters in the ink department. Each ink spill takes time to clean, and spending more than five minutes to mix a gallon of ink costs money. Manual or automatic pumps may not always be the best options—the systems can vary dramatically, and some pumps can take five times longer than a spatula to move ink. A combination approach is often the best, with pumps reserved for 5-gal or drum containers and the simple stainless-steel spatulas working the fastest for the gallon buckets. Time the whole process and trim any wasted time possible without spills.

4. Get a good scale with a stainless-steel surface. A high-quality scale will resolve tenths of a gram and still give a consistent reading when the ink isn't perfectly centered on the scale.

5. If possible, acquire a used or refurbished computer to run the software that accompanies most color-matching ink systems. Keep the computer at the ink station. Simple covers for the keyboard and mouse protect these items from solvents and inks. Just make sure the computer is powerful enough to run the operating system the software requires.


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