Managing Textile Colour Consistency

Managing textile colour standards can be as complicated as you want to make it or likewise, simple as you want to make it.  The choice is yours, but do you know all the options available to you and their best application to achieve colour consistency?

It isn’t only textiles that need to be colour matched, accessories (linings, elastic, zippers, buttons, labelling and any other embellishment) need to be crossed matched, and matched batch to batch.

Colour standard management can be split into the three groups, one-off production, long-term product repeatability and uniforms where the potential for tops and bottoms needing to match from different batches creating a higher level need.

  1. Does not repeat such as Fast Fashion – One off Production
  2. Repeats for 1-2 years in the same colour and functional styles such as underwear, core retail basics and functional apparel.
  3. Repeat and may not change such as uniforms.

From a buying perspective, there are three different ways to check colour;

  1. Visual in a light box using the nominated illumination standard in a lightbox (Illumination standards D65, TL84, UV, CWF, F)
  2. Visual using the correct illumination standard in a light box with an ISO Grey Scale as a reference point for colour difference in a scale 1 to 5
  3. Spectrophotometer

While all three methods can be subjective, the following can cause errors;

  1. Examiners colours perception
  2. Age of the light sources globe
  3. Age of the ISO Grey Scale
  4. Spectrophotometer, density of the original and target materials varies

So in the application how does this work?

Production that does not repeat (Fashion)

  • Fashion, speed is important, you don’t always have time in development for second lab dips, handlooms or strike offs, adjustments can be made in mini-bulk or bulk production.
  • Lab dips or Strike offs samples are visually checked in a light box against the original sample or Pantone reference.
  • Mini-bulk is visually verified in a light box against the approved lab dip or strike off, and adjustment notes.
  • The bulk fabric may be checked visually in a light box against an ISO Grey Scale.  A variation of 4 or 4-5 will be acceptable depending on the company defined standard. Grey Scales are also used for physically testing the colour difference to staining or rubbing for example.
  • Bulk fabric batching – For larger quantity orders there will be multiple batches due to weaving lots of 3000-5000 metres per loom and dying lots of 1000kg if high temperature. End-use customers like Next, M&S, Zara, H&M due to volumes will have multiple shade batches.  These batches need to be sorted and accepted to a company brand defined standard, again a grey scale 4 or 4-5 may be utilised.  If using a Spectrophotometer colour variance should be no greater than DE0.8 to DH0.6.  Where batches are visually acceptable, you must batch shade groups together so one retail store receives one batch.  At a retail level, you don’t want ten items hanging together that look like a rainbow that should be one colour.  If there are coordinate styles such as a jacket, pant and skirt, these styles must also get cut from the same batch.

Production that repeats for 1-2 years

  • Primarily, the same guideline will be followed by production that does not repeat. Development time is greater to get colour sampling correct. There might be a mini-bulk stage to ensure what the lab produced can be replicated in production and meet all chemical and physical testing requirements.
  • Utilisation of a spectrophotometer is more likely to be used to check colours, especially in underwear or functional sportswear where the styles will be manufactured and stocked by retailers for many years. Colour consistency is necessary if there are new deliveries to retail monthly which come from different production batches.  The colour must be the same to ensure brand integrity and visual representation on the retail floor.  With modern technology stock rotation management through barcode or RFID time stamping and batch identification reducing complication.

Production that repeats forever

  • Uniforms have the highest level of colour control.  Example, you are a police officer, commonly you may have a navy jacket and a navy trouser which matches in colour and shade, the trouser is more likely to be replaced before the jacket. It is important that the 2nd or 3rd trouser replacement matches the colour of the original trouser so the colour matches the original jacket.  Likewise, you want all the police officers looking the same; there must be colour consistency in all the product lines.
  • Every batch will be checked; colour variance needs to run at no greater than DE0.5 to DH0.3 from batch to batch through the history of the product.

For all three production types, the management of the colour samples is critical.  It is suggested the following standards are observed.

  • Library administration of all reference samples is essential for ease of finding samples in the years to come and ensure no sample loss.
  • All colour samples must be kept in an environment that will not deteriorate the colour reference.
  • Keep at least 1 metre of the master colour reference to be cut and reused across new fabrics or accessories, or resourcing.

Most textile dyers will use an electronic colour assessment tool and have an automated colour mixing facility, but that is not always the case for smaller facilities who employee a master colour mixer but this is becoming less and less prevalent.

Following basic steps of control that maintain colour reference and systematic checking of samples will ensure colour consistency of colour on the retail floor or in the police station.

ID Global Concepts is a leader in quality management across fabric, accessories, and apparel. We add value to client’s operations through consultancy or management contract to ensure the business has the best practice quality systems that are the right fit for your business, customer and meet your value expectations.

Below are the retailer’s ID Global Concepts have delivered quality apparel and accessories to over the last ten years;

Macy’s, Urban, Sears, Marks & Spencer, Myer, Kmart US & Kmart Australia, Dunnes Stores, Debenhams Monsoon Accessorize, Asos, Witchery, Brown Sugar, RM Williams, Coles, Chloe, John Lewis, Disney, Next, Firetrap, Lonsdale, Postie, ASDA, Harris Scarf, River Island, Tesco, Woolworths, Walmart, Glassons, Babies’R’Us, New Look, Target US & Australia, Primark, David Jones, Best & Less, Sophie, Yakka, Top Shop, BHS, Burlington, BigW, Oasis, JayJays, Blue Illusion, Driza-Bone, Just Jeans, Volcom, House of Fraser, Pumpkin Patch, Suzanne Grae, Pelaco, Laura Ashley, Sportsgirl, Ted Baker, Truetex, TableEight, French Connection

If you would like to learn more or wish to discuss other supply chain opportunities, please email us at info@idgc.co.

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