Thursday, 18 March 2010

Promarker Colour Charts

I mentioned these yesterday when I posted a card made with one of Ching-Chou kuik's gorgeous stamps, and I thought I should say a bit more about them.

I often make my own backing papers. If I'm using an already coloured digital image, that's easy - I sample the colour in my graphics programme and do a backing paper to match. But that's much harder when I've coloured the image with Promarkers. I've lost count of how many backing papers I've made to match the colours of my image only to find that they don't match at all. The problem is that the colour on your computer screen is probably not the colour that will print. I'm always amazed when I look at a familiar website on an unfamiliar computer and hardly recognise it. But screens vary a lot.

So, determined to save myself some paper and ink, I tried printing out a range of the available colours and matching them to my collection of Promarkers. It quickly became obvious that I needed an even bigger range of printer colours, and when I mentioned what I planned on the Crafty Cardmakers group, Vixykins offered to supply Promarker swatches for colours I didn't have. She even got a friend to complete the set!

If you're not familiar with hexadecimal codes, they're simply a way of describing colour. They're most commonly used in HTML and CSS, and consist of three separate numbers. The first two digit number gives the amount of red light (not pigment), the second the amount of green and the third the amount of blue. The only complication is that the higher the number, the lighter the shade because it's based on light reflection and not on absorption. I like this method because I can guestimate differences from a given and a desired colour, and because I've used it for several years when I've played with designing websites and so on.

So, why are they called hexadecimals? Well, that's because these numbers aren't the usual base ten numbers, they're base sixteen. That means that the digits used are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, a, b, c, d, e, f. So, the lowest number you can get for any colour is 00 and the highest is ff. When you put those colours together, 000000 is black (no reflected light) and ffffff is white (because when you mix red, green and blue light together you get the whole spectrum which is white.) Similarly, ff0000 is pure red, 00ff00 is pure green and 0000ff is pure blue. Mixing those, you get the familar printer ink colours: ffff00 mixes red and green (or if you prefer, it's white light less the blue component which gives you yellow. ff00ff mixes red and blue (or is white light less the green component) and gives magenta and 00ffff mixes green and blue (or is white light less the red component) to give cyan.

Ok, enough maths. I took a shortcut that's common in HTML and only used those colours which have repeating digits - so colours like aa5566 and 110055, and printed out small samples of all the resulting colours. While that was a shortcut, it still meant printing out 64 A4 sheets each of which had 64 colour samples (4096 colours in all). Once I'd done that, I assembled the colour swatches and compared them with the printed samples in daylight. Some colours were easy to match and some were just not possible. Unfortunately, because the printer ink colours aren't perfect, some colours aren't reproduceable. This is particularly true of the most vibrant reds, and blues. Where that happened, I tried to match the colour balance as closely as I could, although the ink shade would normally be duller and paler than the Promarker shade. Once I'd done all that once, I did it again! For some of the paler shades that fell between two of the printed shades, I printed further charts with the intervening 16 shades and matched from those. Some day, I'll do the same for the various greys because I wasn't completely happy with some of those either.

Having done the comparison twice and compared notes, I then came up with a confidence measure - 1 if I chose exactly the same shade both times, 2 if I was pretty close and 3 if there was a significant difference (mostly the colours that couldn't be matched well at all.)

The result is either an Excel spreadsheet with colour names and hex codes, or a couple of jpg files where I've added a small sample of the appropriate colour for comparison purposes. The only colour currently missing is slate because I forgot it's hidden among the grey lists on Joanna Sheen's website (because that's where I got the full listing.) I'll add it when I can.

In the meantime, if anyone would like a copy of the information, you can comment here with an email address and I'll send it on. Just remember that it isn't perfect, and that it's based on colours from my Canon printer using Canon ink printed on Tesco Finest ink jet paper. Other combinations will be different, but hopefully not so different that it's not still a useful tool.


Karen said...

Hi Josephine, I'd love one of your colour charts please.

Thank you xx

Anonymous said...

Ooh Josephine I wouild love one of your charts. I've dabbled with this before but not got very far.

Many thanks
Sue C

Unknown said...

Hi not sure if u still have the chart but if u do could u please email me a copy. Many thanks


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