Studio Tour: color + mixing ink

We love color here at StudioTEN15. We mix all of our inks by hand from 14 Pantone base inks. We use the Pantone formula guide to help us target a color family, but depend on our eyes to guide the mixing process toward matching the desired colors.

The Pantone guide swatchbook lists a formula of base colors as a percentage of the overall mix for each Pantone number. We dole out each color onto a mixing board with a palette knife and mix, and mix, and mix to achieve one homogenous and uniform color. Ink goes on the press and printing can begin! But we stay flexible: if the color doesn’t look quite right on the test prints, we aren’t afraid to start the process over again.

Here are a few lessons we’ve learned along the way:

  1. LESS IS MORE. A little pigment goes a LONG way: always mix in more of your base white than you may expect.
  2. START LIGHT, ADD DARK. We try to not mix more ink than we need by adding light to dark (see #1).
  3. RAGS ARE YOUR FIREND. Things can get messy, quickly.
  4. COLORS WILL PRINT LIGHTER. Ink on the mixing board always looks darker than on paper; the press distributes ink in a very thin layer that will appear lighter than the mix.
  5. COMPUTER COLORS ARE NOT EQUAL. this is a tricky but fairly clear dilemma, especially for the digital process of our studio; colored pixels on a screen (lights) look different than printed ink on paper (pigments), and will vary widely depending on the screen or paper; also, see #4.
  6. INK HATES AIR. Store you leftover ink in airtight containers; it’s great to have ink on hand for a quick project or experiment. Plastic tubs work really well & are fairly inexpensive. I want to start tubing our leftover ink to save space, though; my ink drawer is quickly overflowing!