I came accross two different color bars on two distinct cardboard packaging and was trying to figure out what these were exactly about and found some helpful illustration:1

enter image description here

So in the first example(random pasta box), there are 5 solid color patches C, M, Y, M+Y, C+M, with their corresponding 25, 50, 75% tints (standard process control elements for gauging dot gain for instance, such as these), and gray balance bars; formatted in a somewhat expected manner.

In the second example(Voltaren Gel) you only have brand color circle patches, including one(silver) with some "reflective" property. The name of the specific product is used to qualify the color and is printed in that very color.

  • Is the purpose of the color control "bars" the same in both examples?
  • What type of color control is the second example about - is it even about process control at all; what does such a control element reveal about the printing process here - if anything?

1. The illustration (the bottom part of the image) is from The Colorshop Color Primer, by Fred Bunting, (c 1998 Light Source Computer Images, Inc. An X-Rite Company).

  • 2
    The actual packaging would possibly indicate that none of those colors are actually processes colors and the key is actually a spot color key to ensure the two blues and the orange are printed correctly. Obviously the silver is a spot.. but the light blue, red, and yellow don't appear to be CMY in your image. Close but not exact.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 5:44

1 Answer 1


I suspect the job is actually a 5 color spot (maybe + black) and not CMYK + Silver. I'm not certain if the black is actually part of the spot color piece. It does look like there are 2 separate pieces of packaging in that photograph. So, the black ramp may be an entirely different package.

The fact that it's a spot color job is indicated by the color ramps in addition to the circles and the actual color names on the left.

While the yellow may very well be processes yellow, the light blue does not appear to be cyan to me nor the red, magenta. They are close. But I don't think they are actually processes colors.

So the circles are used to show 100% of the spot color. This allows the pressman to check solidity and hue.

The color ramp above the circles on the right is used to check screen values, color builds, and registration.

When you view the actual packaging....

enter image description here

You can see the red and yellow are used to create the orange gradient. This is what the color ramp on the right side is checking. Along with the screen values in the blues which creates the gradient bevel-like effects on the type.

The black/yellow/red ramp in the center of the image would appear to be used to check rich black values, registration, and screens.

In short, everything serves the same purpose it would if the colors were CMYK. They are merely specialized to match the colors actually being used. The circles are somewhat unique because they aren't necessarily needed in a standard CMYK color ramp, but with spot colors having a clear area of 100% color is important and the circles make that area clearly indicated.

  • Thank you! So this is arbitrary spot color for Voltaren. The ramps come from a more traditional product; I apologize for not showing before. So it's about process. I ask the Q because I thought maybe Voltaren was about characteristics or colorimetry. Trying to assess that from the control elements used. From that I hope to get a glimpse into what CGAT-21-2, 12647-7 and 15339 mean in practice. For Voltaren, I can see some site urls containing the color names; feels like CMS to me, it's offtopic.Ty!
    – user29318
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 20:49

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