Tuesday, May 27, 2008

You can pick your threads and you can pick your friends...

But you really can't pick your friends' threads. No, really. Ever tried to explain a color to someone? Tough, isn't it. And I'm not talking about the blind neighbor who really wants to know what the sunset looks like. I am truly just talking about, say, a pal on the other side of town, on the phone, who wants to know what your vegas gold thread matches. Or the one who did some t-shirts and now wants to match the t-shirt colors to a crest-sized embroidered logo but needs exact matches.

Personally, my heart kinda sinks when I get the question, "Here are the PMS colors for the design and my client wants them matched exactly."

My first thought is, well (it's a thought), I could just go out and spin some polyester right after I mix the proper colors and do a test print somewhere. That would work, right?

The answer is, um, no. Really, thread never matches ink. It just doesn't. You can take a piece of embroidery or sewing thread out in the sunlight and it looks entirely different in color than it does under fluorescents. Apart from that, it never really matches those expensive little pantone charts that are so carefully updated and handed out (or sold for lots of money).

There are close comparisons. We carry a couple of manufactured threads that provide us with reference charts. The charts are good at giving us an approximation of the color that will closely match but often, it is not exact and we have, over the past sixteen years, actually had complaints by customers who said that our thread color is way off from their own idea of the correct pantone. Some have even come in and looked at our wall of thread (over 100 colors, no waiting), and picked their own, which is always an option.

Oh, wait. We don't have every single color, either. We rarely have to go buy additional ones, but we do, on occasion, have to substitute one slightly different one, or come 'as close as possible' where necessary. But really, how many colors should one be expected to carry?

We do work hard at matching. But the very first thing we do try to do during the client education process is inform them that some compromise regarding color may be required, especially if they are doing embroidered goods for the first time. Because it just is not the same. Embroidery colors are never quite like print colors and while PMS colors are close, they are not entirely perfect. It's just the nature of the beast.
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