Color Matching: Demystifying the Role of Delta E in Printing

Color Matching Demystifying the Role of Delta E in Printing

In the world of printing, color precision and consistency are essential, but often a daunting task. That’s why using the right tools to achieve accurate color matching must take priority.

When specifying precise colors, whether it’s a Pantone Matching System (PMS) shade or matching a previously printed piece, professionals rely on a technical measurement known as Delta E (ΔE). To understand this production tool and the role of advanced devices that use it, let’s talk about all things color matching.

Color Matching and Its Significance in Printing

Color matching is the process of ensuring that the colors printed on a final product closely match the desired colors.

Brand owners and graphic designers spend a lot of time choosing and deciding the spot color they need in an artwork file to communicate the right look, the right message, and the right feel.

These aesthetics are of utmost importance, which means precise color matching is imperative.

Even a slight variation in color can be visually noticeable and impact the overall quality and perception of the printed label. It’s not worth the risk of eyeballing it, which is why the Delta E color measurement is so important in print production.

Giving the client exactly what they approved – each and every time.

The Significance of Delta E (ΔE)

Delta E, often represented as ΔE, is a metric used to quantify the color difference between two similar colors. It provides a numerical value that indicates how closely a sample color matches a target color. The lower the ΔE value, the closer the match is perceived as the desired color. When the human eye starts to perceive a slight difference in two colors, it is defined as a ΔE of one.

Delta E measurement


Delta E quantifies color differences (seen as Points A and B above) by comparing the Lab values of the target color and the sample color. The Lab color space is a three-dimensional color model that represents colors in 3 axes that are lightness (L*), red-green (a*), and yellow-blue (b*) components. Then, Delta E takes into account all three dimensions to provide a comprehensive assessment of the color differences.

For example, like a geographic location that can be pinpointed using latitude, longitude, and altitude coordinates, similarly, Lab can quantify color in the same fashion that removes the uncertainty that the color is “too green” or “too dark green”.

Delta E is particularly crucial for any brand owner looking to perfect a uniform appearance for customers. For example, in PMS color matching, clients may specify an ΔE tolerance of 2 or 3, indicating that the printed color must be within this range of the target color to be considered an acceptable match.

Additionally, the human eye’s ability to perceive color differences is not uniform across all colors and lighting conditions. The perceptual threshold refers to the point at which a color difference is acceptable, for example, to a customer viewing products on a shelf. So, it’s important to consider the threshold when interpreting ΔE values, as smaller ΔE values, meaning two colors are closer to each other, and are less noticeable to the human eye.

Measuring Devices for Delta E

Now that we understand what Delta E is, let’s talk about the devices that measure it. Some prominent measuring devices for Delta E include Techkon SpectroDen and Xrite Exact. Beyond Delta E values these devices can measure many properties and values of color for greater precision and measurement. Look for this discussion on our blog about measurements.

Techkon SpectroDen

The SpectroDen is an advanced color measurement device designed to provide precise and reliable color data. It’s a valuable tool for printing companies seeking to achieve accurate and consistent color results.

Techkon SpectroDen uses spectrophotometry to measure the spectral values of a color sample. It then translates this data into Lab values, allowing for a direct comparison with the target color, quickly and accurately capturing color information. Its user-friendly interface also makes Techkon SpectroDen easily accessible for users to make color changes fast. Techkon SpectroDen is tailored to the printing and packaging industry, making it the ideal choice for printers in this sector.

Xrite Exact

The Exact is another cutting-edge color measurement instrument that provides real-time data and guidance to achieve precise and consistent color results. Just like Techkon SpectroDen, Xrite Exact employs spectrophotometry to capture spectral reflectance data from color samples.

However, Xrite Exact’s versatility extends its use beyond the printing industry, making it suitable for a wide range of applications, including graphic design, packaging, textiles, and plastics. Its ease of use is an advantage for those who need efficient and straightforward color evaluation.

Techkon and Xrite Summary

The printing industry uses a Delta E 2000 calculation as the standard method of expressing ΔE values. Older versions (1976 and 1994) did not take into account the human eye’s perceptual sensitivity to different colors.

This is seen as ΔE2000 or ΔE00 – look in the photos below.

Both these devices offer onscreen recommendations of what needs to be adjusted to achieve a better (smaller) Delta E.  For example, ΔE of two in one instance may require an adjustment of more magenta.  And in another instance, this same ΔE of two requires a cyan adjustment.

These devices will also let you know when you have optimized the lowest possible Delta E target.




How Kwality Labels Can Color Match for You

When it comes to custom label printing, Delta E is a crucial metric for achieving accurate color matching and advanced measuring devices like Techkon SpectroDen and Xrite Exact are indispensable tools in today’s technology for printing companies. So, how can you get to color matching with your own custom labels? Kwality Labels has you covered.

Our team of experienced professionals understands how important it is to print your colors right the first time which is why we use state-of-the-art technology to measure Delta E values. From flexographic printing to pressure-sensitive products, our capabilities for custom label printing are endless. To learn more about Delta E and how color matching works for your products get in touch with us! We look forward to working with you.