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The GMK Color Matching Process Explained

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One of the most important aspect of designing a keycap set is the color selection and subsequent color matching process. Without a solid combination of colors that resonates with the community, a set is almost certainly destined for obscurity, or even at risk of not being manufactured at all. The entire process is also one of the few steps that can really derail a set’s production estimate. In this post I hope to shed some light on the color selection and matching process from start to finish and give plenty of tips along the way to ensure that this step will go as smoothly as possible for anyone that plans on designing a GMK keycap set.  The first, and often overlooked step, is to calibrate your monitor(s)! If you’re like me and not a graphic designer by trade, chances are that you leave your monitor in some kind of gaming mode, or eye comfort mode, and not setup to give the most accurate color reproduction. Another good thing to do is check your work on multiple devices or screens – so check what the renders look like on your monitor, phone, tv, etc.  The next aspect I want to discuss is where to even begin looking for colors. The first place to check would simply the stock GMK colors as seen below:
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If you don’t see a color in the stock colors that fits your needs, custom colors are a viable, and very popular option. At GMK, we recommend using RAL Classic or RAL Design colors whenever possible. These colors are made for manufacturing and generally are matched by the supplier on the first try – making the process go as quickly, and smoothly as possible. Pantone colors are also acceptable, though we highly recommend getting physical chip samples from Pantone whenever possible. Finally, HEX, CMYK, and RGB codes are not acceptable, as these are not physical colors.  Once you have all of the colors for a project selected, the color matching and sampling process can begin. The selected color codes will be send off to the supplier (who is also in Germany) who will match the colors and provide the raw material that will be used to make samples. The supplier won’t send the raw material until they have a match. Once GMK receives the colors, samples will be produced and they will be rechecked internally to ensure a perfect match to the requested color has been made. Once samples have been manufactured, they will be sent directly to the vendor (who can subsequently send them out to the designer) to look over and approve for manufacturing.  When selecting colors, it is very important to consider the contrast – especially between legend color and cap color. This is where physical samples really come in handy, as you can place the samples beside each other and check them in a wide array of real lighting. Indoor soft and pure white lights, dimmed indoor lights, outdoors in the sun, outdoors on a cloudy day, etc. The more environments you can check contrast in, the better. You can also compare the samples to your renders on different devices to see how accurately each are calibrated - and get a better idea of what monitor is most useful to reference.
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Image of a GMK Injection Molding Machine: Oblotzky Industries
Over the past few years, renders for group buys have become so much more detailed and realistic – and have become a huge factor in determining how well a set will sell. Many of the community members doing renders are very competent at their craft, and are artists in their own right! At the same time, there have been times where renders clearly made use of a very particular lighting, or shading to make a set look really good for the renders, but put less emphasis on accurately depicting the final product. In these instances a set may be matched perfectly to the submitted color codes, but still come out completely different than what the buyers in the community were expecting. The best recommendation I have is to always make sure you get a few renders that are made to be as accurate as possible without any artistic lighting or shading, and then have as many renders in various types of lighting to supplement those base renders.  For anyone wanting to dig a little bit deeper, here's a PDF guide to the entire process you can download directly from the GMK website. If you have any questions please comment below and I'll do my best to address them each individually!
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Always love seeing photos from the factory floor. Thanks for including one!
krugerlive
196
Feb 1, 2023
Plastic pantone chips are required, not just recommended, right? It's my understanding and experience that you can't match Pantone colors without it and the paper chips won't cut it.
GMK_Andy
148
Feb 2, 2023
krugerliveYes. If the vendor doesn't supply them we can acquire them. The point here though is that the person designing the set really should be getting them to view on their own! It is a totally different experience seeing the colors in person, and looking at them under real lighting than just comparing them on a monitor.
(Edited)
M0les
11
Feb 1, 2023
Thanks for the article. I scanned the GMK doc. and found it very informative. Do you know if there's any possibility of legends on the front face of the keys (in addition to the top, like a C64 keyboard)?
GMK_Andy
148
Feb 1, 2023
M0lesFront legends can be pad printed on - I'll have to find what the exact tolerances/area of print is though!
GMK_Andy
148
Feb 1, 2023
M0lesYou can actually see this on the front of the standard color caps - the codes are just pad printed on! Didn't think to just mention that :)
Hanami Dango instantly came to mind when reading the second to last paragraph, hahaha
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