Author Topic: Custom color process  (Read 3033 times)

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Offline bliss

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Custom color process
« on: Sun, 24 May 2020, 10:10:13 »
Trying to understand the custom color process and formulate it in very simple steps for anyone concerned.

I would view this as an ideal procedure:

Designer <-> Manufacturer

1) Picking colors
The designer / GB runner has physical color palettes (plastic chips) and picks colors for alphas, modifiers, legends, accents and so on. His responsibility is to make sure they look as intended under all projected lighting conditions and pick accordingly.
Output: physical color codes, for instance RAL

2) Color matching & sample production
The manufacturer's task is to produce the colored plastics from raw plastics (color matching) and mold them into sample keys. For this, there are exactly the same color fans or catalogues plastic chips physically present at the manufacturer's site, as well as color metering tools.
Output: sample keys matched to the desired color codes

3) Aesthetic check
The designer examines the results: all combinations of legend- and base colors in various light conditions. She can be sure that the samples received match the chosen colors from her plastic reference card.
Output: yes or no decision

Start over at 1) if
the aesthetics are not satisfactory in the real world on actual keycaps.

Pipelining Theory:
Above procedure should definitely start in the IC phase and ideally is completed before the GB phase begins, for two reasons:
  • To prove producibility to investors participants
  • Speed up the group buy phase by moving the color selection & matching part in the otherwise dormant IC phase. This is akin to instruction pipeling in computer processors, which has been commonplace since the late 1970s.
It is really just a fancy term for a matter of course.

Designer <-> Group Buy Participants

What remains is to convey the physical colors from the standard catalogue (let's say RAL) to anyone interested in the group buy (who does not own the physcial color palette). The resulting renders should be seen as a preview, because they can never be 100% spot-on.

More about this aspect is detailed in this excellent piece:

To conclude, it is essential that designer and manufacturer both use plastic chips as reference to remove any ambiguities.

Interested parties could also aquire those color sample chips before buying to see what they are getting, that is if the gb runner releases the codes.


Edit 2020/05/27:
  • Cleared up terminology
  • Removed unnecessary speculations
  • Added Pipelining Theory
Edit 2020/06/05:
  • minor edit regarding renders
« Last Edit: Fri, 05 June 2020, 08:36:25 by bliss »

Offline Puddsy

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Re: Custom color process
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 24 May 2020, 12:34:19 »
Your analysis is mostly correct from my experience with RR/Yolch

Best practice is generally to get a physical color sample, as mentioned, but ideally a plastic one, not a paper fan book. From my experience, most color matching issues stem from incorrect sample choices.

The other thing to is that every monitor shows color slightly differently, and even if you get a fancy color-correct monitor, it still may not 100% match the final product. Across all 3 of my monitors, for example, the orange color of the classic geekhack theme is slightly different.

I know that Olivia got physical samples (plastic pantone chips) for both her sets, which is part of why they came out so well as an end product. So far as I know, the same is true for Zambumon, whose sets also turn out quite well in comparison to the renders. Paper chips can get you most of the way there, but they don't always match the final outcome 100%. I know the RAL book is much better about this than the pantone book, but any more than that is out of my depth as an amateur.

A physical product will never be 100% accurate to renders, but most people get close enough that it doesn't especially matter. The only real blunders I can think of are Necro and P&C, at least in recent memory.

Yolch was slightly off in that it didn't match GMK dolch sets, but that was only caught by someone who was using it with one, which is why it didn't get caught until a month or two after it was shipped.
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Offline bliss

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Re: Custom color process
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 25 May 2020, 09:21:25 »
Thank you for chiming in, I was mixing different things, I always meant plastic chips. I think their use is mandatory for any serious designer and are an essential investment. Ditto on the manufacturer side.

I 100% agree that renders just need to be good enough to convey the idea - as realistic as possible. Like you say, it is virtually impossible to transport the image with high fidelity, since there usually is a myriad of filters and color space conversions involved. And of course, monitors can only display a certain range of colors. The spectral power distribution of the sample can merely be approximated with RGB additive mixing (of the monitor).
« Last Edit: Wed, 27 May 2020, 04:51:46 by bliss »

Offline bliss

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Re: Custom color process
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 27 May 2020, 05:02:24 »

Offline SkyeAtkinson

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Re: Custom color process
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 22 June 2020, 06:39:12 »
I have found so much great designed keyboards here!

Offline PseudoLlama

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Re: Custom color process
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 22 June 2020, 19:32:28 »
I would say that doing the color matching process after starting the GB could cause for a very extended IC period, during that time, you could possibly lose interest. So it's probably dangerous to have too much lead time between the IC and GB. That being said, there aren't many places where you are allowed to post pre-IC content, doing that here most of the time results in either complete shutdown or ignorance by the community, on Reddit, the r/MK sub is honestly your best bet because the r/KeycapDesigners sub is practically extinct. However, misuse of the IC tag on Reddit has also lead to the untimely death of many sets, mostly by the community, again. Which leaves people in a bad spot, they can't really post incomplete works but don't want to risk time making a set that people will hate, so, what do they do? They join the Keycap Designers Discord: