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Color Standards, Lab Dips, and Why You Need Both! (Part 1)

Ok, so you might be wondering, what is a lab dip exactly?

Also referred to as L/Ds for short, a lab dip is a small test of your bulk fabric being dyed to match your color standard. Usually, there are 2-4 swatch options to select from.

Lab dipping is a simple idea in practice, but it helps to understand why you need to ask for and review your own lab dips. The core reason for maintaining and approving your own lab dip library would be to fully own, know, and approve your product.

Some companies entrust this work to their manufacturers. In contrast, others have entire internal color departments that analyze and scrutinize every dip that comes down their pipeline. Finally, a few big companies have color teams that are creating new, brand-specific colors.

It's essential to consider the starting point of any lab dip: a color standard. Starting from a commercialized color standard is the best way to create consistent colors across your brand and multiple deliveries.

So what is a color standard? Very simply, it's a means to create consistency across the spectrum of colors. In fashion and commercial goods, color standards are usually made on fabric materials as paper colors can wildly vary as a comparison. These color standards often contain a formula to help reach the color on the base fabric so that your maker has a starting point to create the first round of lab dips.

color standards and lab dips
Photo Credit: Jasmine Stroud

There are a few different big names in the standard color business, but the most familiar is probably Pantone. Pantone's Fashion Home + Interior has an extensive collection of cotton standards and a small set of nylon standards that are neon pigment-based. Many swim and intimates fabrics are made of nylon or polyester, so comparing it to cotton is tricky. Cotton poplin vs. nylon swim tricot can be very different due to the nature of the cotton and nylon fibers.

Coloro is another color standard maker. It is more common with European brands as they have established a strong presence in the UK, Germany, and China. They tend to make their swatches in a polyester quality which can be ideal for brands that use more synthetic fibers in their apparel.

Archroma is another color standard company. They tend to work with many big companies with wide-spanning product lines, like Target and Walmart. They usually develop custom colors with these brands as well as their own collection of colors. The nice thing about Archroma is that they will help these more prominent brands develop the colors on the actual fabrics they intend to use them on. This helps ensure consistency across the brand as Archroma helps participate in creating the exact formula for color on XYZ fabric.

So now that we know the big players in the color standard game…

Why do you need lab dips? To build consistent colors across multiple vendors, materials, and product lines. By using a regular palette of color standards, your collection will start to look more cohesive. In addition, it will allow your customers to mix and match more items if you share colors across multiple styles or collections.

Want to know more about how to properly check lab dips? Check out part two to learn how to review + comment on your colors to get the best color matching.

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