Author Topic: Color matching keycapmock-ups/renders/final result (split-off from GMK Necro GB)  (Read 2191 times)

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Offline the_mihalich

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I want to leave some info for both Designers and Participants of Group Buys. I first posted short version on r/mk but I think it belongs here more.
You can read my comment and some discussion here https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/9yb9nz/a_poor_side_by_side_comparison_of_gmk_necro/ea0eehh so info will be similar. but I hope to have it here in a bit more refined form.

TL;DR
Designers should devote some of their resources to keep their work consistent from digital designs to renders, then compare and match samples from manufacturer and provide Clear description and “proofs” that their design is going to be manufactured according to designs and renders they shown to the public. If possible, manufacturer should do a sample run and provide images and measurements of produced set before setting it to mass production.

Let’s begin.
Short introduction - I worked for several years in paint and plastic color production industry for one of the biggest pigment manufacturers and color system providers and specialized in color matching solutions.

Regular ways of color matching and color communication require some very expensive equipment and that is why most of the time designers work with colors readily available in industry.

Lets start with general concepts - what affect what we see as a color?
- the lighting conditions
- the contrast background and surrounding colors
- Our own special properties to see - (how we see colors, how we can tell them apart and if we can see difference between very similar colors, do we have color blindness and so on and so on)
- how the color is "made" is it surrounding light reflecting from some surface, or it's a screen which illuminates and sends mix of color filtered light towards us.

If we see a color screen - emitted, presumably white, light passes through red green blue filters and we see some resulting color as their combination - It is additive way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Additive_color
If we see a color page in magazine - surrounding light is reflected from page and inks as they absorb parts of surrounding light and reflect others do "subtraction" of "all inclusive" white light and reflect only selected wavelengths towards us. It is subtractive way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subtractive_color

If you can grasp these concepts - then we can go further.

In a group buy Designer operates with several medias:
1 - Some digital designs and renders in form of Pictures in widely acceptable formats (let's say it is JPEG)
2 - Some samples or readily available colors by manufacturer in form of plastic swatches (let's assume it's GMK set of standard swatches)
3 - Some specially made color samples by manufacturer (in form of swatches from GMK or sample keycaps from them made with special color)
4 - Some reference widely accepted Color catalogues (let's reference RAL, Pantone, Munsell, NCS)
5 - Web pages where designer posts pictures of renders and/or samples/references to color catalogues and people see them

So, we can see a border between points 1-5 and 2-3-4 as 1-5 is computer design or render shown on some screen, and 2-3-4 are all "real things" which we can see/touch and watch under different light conditions.

You can already start to see problems here.

If I go to design some web page which will never get to print, I'm a lucky man. As I'm not connected to real world problems.
So If I design a Keyset and select a colorway for it via some fancy catalogue on Pantone website https://www.pantone.com/color-finder#/pick?pantoneBook=pantoneSolidCoatedV3M2 I can just pick the colors - move them to my photoshop or illustrator or inkscape or any other tool I work with and produce some design with the color palette I want.

Generally, I see some color on the web catalogue and use same color in my tool. so, everything nice.
Until I move from my lovely laptop to some other computer with different screen. Same colors start to look different.
So - what should I do as a Designer - I need to have all my screens calibrated, profiled and matched - This "should" make all my screens to show same colors in a same way.
Until... I look at them in a same room under same light against same grey wall with same monitor settings kept.

If you have auto brightness and or night shift mode - it will be different colors shown.
If you are moving with your design work from your dim lit bedroom to coffeeshop with high and wide windows or sit outside - your laptop screen colors will look different to you.

If you move between computers - your colors will be displayed differently on uncalibrated unmatched and unprofiled screens. Or screens set to work in different colorspaces like sRGB or AdobeRGB

And then we add some personal stuff as you should understand that any Joe Doe sitting in his car looking at your designs from his phone screen will see other colors. because of his screen and surroundings.
And all of the people around the world have different color vision and may have some defects in their ability to see color due to genetics or some trauma.
(I think that everybody who is working in design should start with at least web based tests and then go pass some real color tests to be sure - start with this https://www.color-blindness.com/farnsworth-munsell-100-hue-color-vision-test/#prettyPhoto)

So we covered just a tip of digital design problems. Lets move on.

Renders. Renders are some 3d model made into some picture via lot's of mathematics. It sounds great, but also renderers or rendering engines could render our designs unusable or wrong.

Why? Rendering engine do things like this - you make cube, you set material and surface finish of this cube. You set and position some virtual light sources and set some color for your cube surface.
Then push a button and magical software begin ray tracing and looking for all the ways light sources would illuminate the cube how it's surface with set color will reflect the light, which parts will stay in shade which parts will face viewer and then it will generate a "real life" like picture.
But depending on millions of factors and settings your rendering engine can work with light sources and surfaces a bit incorrectly and you can get in situation when your rendered colors are different even from colors you selected to work with in photoshop. (I'm not saying rendering engines are useless, but you can get in such situations and forum posts with questions about inconsistent colors are not rare)

So as a designer you should try to control what is going on between your design and rendering results how it looks and be sure that everything kept consistent.

And then again you post your renders and pics on internet and hope for the best.

As most computers and phones are set to work with sRGB - you as a designer can work as you like but you should check that your design looks correct on "mass market displays" and in colorspace which ~everybody uses. Then don’t forget to check your designs in different browsers as they can also move in the way of correct color reproduction.

Now the real things - bringing your design into a real world.

First a simple exercise - go and print a sample picture with your design in 3-4 print shops on different materials like matte paper maybe a mug and mousepad. and at your friend’s house on his color laser printer and at your fellow photographer studio on his nice and expensive photo printer.

You will get a set of your design made in different forms and with absolutely different colors.

As the you get back to normal from shock after this easy and quite cheap reality check, you start to grasp the thing about additive color and subtractive color difference more.

Color in paint/plastic and other materials are achieved by different methods but similar ways.
Paint - take white paint and mix it with red paint - you get pink paint
Plastic - take white plastic pellets - add some red plastic pellets, melt and mix it and press it to the mold - and get a pink plastic.

It is simple explanation but paint or plastics could be made to become some type of color in different ways.
Let's make a paints example - you can get white paint in paint store and machine adds some very strong color pigment in some quantity then it is mixed and shaken by special machine and you get a paint of some desired color.

But now we are in a real world and we are working with totally real stuff here - some real light sources reflect not 100% white light into our eyes and we see some color.
What can go wrong?

Light sources can change the color appearance - You move your pink paint from your room outside - and it is different shade of red|pink. Or you put it against dark background/light background and precepted color changes.
You buy a blouse and inside a shop it is nice green but outside it is awful browish color (maybe I'm wrong and this pair should be in different order but you should get the idea), Now with LED lights please welcome lack of UV source in your lamps. LEDs don’t emit UV (without addition of UV LEDs into the mix) so all the special pigments for whitening effects no longer work. And your colors drift away. And your yellowed shirt is no longer bluish white – as there is no way to activate the effects of whitening under UV light.
With all this you just witnessed a metamerism in effect.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamerism_(color)

Under different lighting conditions same colors may look different. Or you can have different colors look same under some light source.

In paint or plastic manufacturing some specially trained guys make formulas and measurements to predict which colors may have metameric effects and mark them with some level of metamerism.

So that you as a designer will know that this material with selected color will stay green under most of the lighting conditions and that other one can morph into something undesirable.

Let's move on - as we move into real world we understand that getting something done once is nice but repeating it in a same way is hard even for robot.
And we face a big problem - inconsistency.

If your base white paint is ALWAYS same - then you are lucky. But if it's 99.9% white today and 99.7% white tomorrow with a new batch - then you are in a real-world ****.
Let's add here a pigments you dose - they should also be same.
And your dosage equipment should be very consistent and repeatable.

Now let's mix it with color. There are color formulas (X amount of base color + Y amount of pigment1 +Z amount of Pigment 2 etc.) which start to shift heavily out of desired color if some pigment amount is wrong.
Example - white base paint or plastic with red pigment or pellets - result is pink paint or plastic.
Now let's add some yellow and then some blue and some magenta etc etc ... and we get some very special color.  But - some pigment is used like 10ml/l of base paint and other is 0.5ml/l but for many color formulas the color will look the same even if some error during it's preparations was made or base color is not same white as before.

But let’s assume we use 10ml of red pigment and 1ml of magenta mixed into 1l of white paint - it is easy to mistake 0,5ml of magenta and 0,6ml of magenta so if we have 1000+10+0,5ml of mix - 0,1ml of additional magenta is just 0,0001 of its volume or 0,01% of volume but I think most of you will be able to tell the difference as magenta is very strong color and in white base you will see it's effect easily.

So, these guys with formulas - they have special formulas not only to predict metamerism of some colors but also calculate how "standard error in dosage equipment" will change the resulting color. And if small error in dosage produce big difference in result - this color is marked as "critical”.

There are other properties - as some strong colors require so much pigments added to base white paint that it becomes not a mix of white paint with some pigment but mix of pigments with some paint. This should be controlled as well and strong colors are formulated with transparent or semi transparent base paint. Also Base color of base paint could be yellow or blue to save on expensive pigments and reduce possible errors etc etc.
So what all this mean for some Keyset designer.
Big guys in lab coats use special tools to be sure that something is really has the needed color and it stays the same during production and under different light sources.

Basic tools are – Color fans and sample swatches which were tested and measured. (as the colors fade – all this is consumables and have expiration date.
Color matching booths which provides you with neutral background and can give a selection of standard light sources via specially manufactured lamps are used to check that color sample is same as color standard of your choice.

Spectrophotometers – they can measure the color of your sample so that you can compare sample reading against standard reading and sometimes get some additional data like metameric properties or other interesting stuff if you use it with special software.

Now you can say – I’m a hobby designer of keysets how would I get this ultraexpensive tools?
You don’t need to as you can pay some lab which specializes on color measurements a visit and use their service.
But you can reply that their services are insanely expensive as well! Here I can say – yes, industrial color matching is expensive as hell. But there are some practices you should use to stay real even without all this stuff.

As a designer you need to have at least the following:
color fan of your preferred color system
calibrated and profiled monitor for sRGB colorspace
a small viewing booth even DIY painted in matte 18% grey (you can find references for Catalog colors close to 18% grey in photo forums) and some LEDs and ccfl light with diffusers to produce “regular indoor lighting”. Same grey color could be a backdrop for photos taken in overcast day.
Some photo camera which can capture pictures in RAW format
Color chart for camera calibration. It is a great sample target for white balance adjustment as well.
With this stuff you can do your job more or less consistently
-   starting with digital design with selected samples taken from real life color fan or plastic sample kit of your selected color system
-   you can render and check the rendering results against your design and real color sample
-   you can get samples from manufacturer of your plastic parts and compare them to your design, render, plastic sample from color system, or color fan
-   you can check how they look on a neutral background under natural light, and under your not so perfect simulation of indoor lights
-   you can take pictures of samples with good match of colors rendered by calibrated and profiled camera and adjusted against color chart.
So, you have a basic set of tools to keep you away from situation one designer from some keyboard forum got into.

And what you should do as a Group Buy participant? It could be hard. As you are on a receiving end.
Here comes the wildest part – color communication.
Designer who do interest check should pass a color blindness test, just to be sure.
Provide design and renders.
And give a set of basic rules:
-   which colorspace is used
-   which color system is used
-   which colors are used
This is already hard as designer is in fear some bad guys will steal their work and don’t want to share most of the info.
So I think designer should at least clarify if sRGB is used and all the serious users can pay some small fee and calibrate their monitors for same colorspace. It could be ~$15-50 for one monitor.

Then get samples and take their pictures with color fan or standard samples from color system catalogue in several lighting conditions indoor and outdoor against a color chart from X-rite or DataColor. This will show that colors are close to colors selected for digital design. And will not shift after you move them from dim room to outdoors and inside with LED lighting.
Designer can cover color names on the fan used for these pictures or do other stuff but Both buyers and designer will be sure that there is nothing to fear as matching colors are shown.

But best practice is working with some color professionals and manufacturer to make test runs and be sure that test sample and production run stays the same color.
Also it would be very interesting if first samples received were good and production run was failed by GMK.


I really hope this exrtremely long wall of text could be  helpful for someone who don't want to F@#%$ a GB of some nice keyset.
« Last Edit: Mon, 19 November 2018, 16:40:40 by Photoelectric »

Offline Photoelectric

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Your post has been split off from the GMK Necro group buy, as it is in itself a pretty long off-topic contribution to the actual group buy thread.  It deserves its own separate discussion.
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Offline the_mihalich

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Your post has been split off from the GMK Necro group buy, as it is in itself a pretty long off-topic contribution to the actual group buy thread.  It deserves its own separate discussion.
Should I add a link in original post?

Offline switchnollie

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Should I add a link in original post?

Na you good :thumb:

Offline the_mihalich

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Should I add a link in original post?

Na you good :thumb:
Oh thanks for suggestion. Always liked the attitude of gh users
 :thumb:

Online Wetherbee

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Sounds like a good PhD thesis or at least a paper to the vision/imaging conferences (USENIX/ACM).

How to create science from an art...

Online csmertx

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Oh my, what a wonderful roller coaster of a post  :)
More
 / another 3d keyboard model thread / BSD thread / github / falotalt
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Online zslane

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Very few designers do their own renders. Moreover, very few render jockeys are going to work with keycap vendors (some of whom are not easy to communicate with on manufacturing issues) just for concept art and promo images. Most buyers realize and accept that colors will vary slightly from renders (or even photographs) to the final products they receive. On a practical level hyper accurate color matching is pretty much a non-issue, as is evidenced by the fact that sales to do suffer one bit due to the lack of such accuracy.

Offline WireStart

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Great read. Was thinking about doing something like this.