Delta Stamps Fact File No. 17
     

Decimal Machin Basic Colour Chart
Photogravure and Gravure Printings

 

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Describing colour has always presented problems when it comes to description and classification. A host of variables can come into play from how any one individual perceives colour, daylight / artificial light,etc.

All Machin stamps printed in (photo)gravure have used Spot Colours i.e. the ink is specifically formulated for the desired colour (process colours (the four colour process) use a combination of Yellow, Magenta, Cyan (lightish blue) and Key (Black) to produce the illusion of a desired colour - this method is used for many multicolour printings - typically Special Issues printed in Litho).

In the case of the Machin stamp, the Queen's Head is set on one of two background types - a solid dark background or a gradated / light background. In turn, the ink mix used can range from dark to light. These factors and others (compression used by the press, doctor blade wiping, etc) can make it difficult to classify colours in a consistent way. Ideally, using areas that have one hundred percent inking such as the Jubilee Lines give the best chance for classifying a colour. The following blocks show Solid (Head B) and Gradated (Head C) background Machins etched on the same cylinder and printed in a single colour - one block in a lightish dull blue colour and the other in a lightish dull mauve colour. These demonstrate how colour perception is challenged by the amount of ink used for differing background types.- the solid background images have a deeper etch resulting in the ink cells being flooded with ink whereas in the case of the gradated background images the ink cells can be very shallow (on the right hand side of the Queens head) resulting in a lot less ink being picked up by the cell.

Solid and Gradated backgrounds from the same Trial Cylinder -
printed on the Gemini Press (original name of the Jumelle)

With the transition from photogravure cylinders (acid etched) to gravure (directly engraved image) cylinders, a further variable was introduced as can be seen from the following two 43p printings. In the case of the acid etched method, the etch depth was the result of exposing the cylinder to varying combinations of acid for varying amounts of time - this being controlled by the expert eye of the skilled craftsman, whereas in the case of the directly engraved image cylinders (for any given colour) it should be possible to produce cylinders of a consistent and precise quality if unchanged engraving parameters are used.

43p Photogravure
43p Gravure

Other components that can effect the colour perception include - overprints such as phosphor bands, varnish coating, iriodin inks and iridescent inks (gives dirty impression).

Photogravure / Gravure inks are liquid / fluid inks and are different from those used for Litho which are paste / greasy inks and this adds a further variable when trying to produce consistent colours.

Some colours seem to produce a greater range of variations than others - as an example the 9p Deep Violet (this colour was also used for the 18p and 28p values with the same Head Type). When this was the prevailing first class tariff rate (13th June 1977 to 19th August 1979) a raft of printings where issued and these gave many colour variations which could range from Bluish Violet to almost Grey.

The 1p Crimson and 2p Green values have been in use from the outset of the decimal period in 1971 (40 years plus) with both values retaining the same notional colour throughout. Again, a range of colour variations exist, some subtle others quite marked. Royal Mail now call the 1p Maroon and the 2p Dark Green.

The colour names used are those designated in Stanley Gibbons - Specialised Stamp Catalogue Volume 4 : Queen Elizabeth II Decimal Definitive Issues. They use the convention of specific colours with qualifiers such as dark, light, etc, whereas Royal Mail, in certain cases, use more ambiguous terms such as Rhododendron, Rust, Sea Green, etc. Clearly, some of the colour names allocated by SG are problematically - Violet (5½p is equated to 24p, 27p and 97p). Colours in square brackets are the Royal Mail names that appear as Colour Imprints on counter sheets.

Group 1 - Reds, Yellows, Browns, Purples


Magenta
[£1 Ruby]
2½p
£1
Bright Magenta
[15p; 88p Shocking Pink]
3p
7p
15p
39p
88p
Bright Magenta
[Rose Pink]
£3.30
Pale Cerise
[Pink]
16p
Bright Rose
[Pink]
76p
Rose Red
2½p
14p
25p
Rosine
8p
26p
37p
38p
Rosine (Continued)
[62p Red]
41p
62p
72p
Vermilion
[1st Royal Mail Red]
1st NVI
Crimson
1p
Brown Red
11½p
23p
£1.50
Brownish Red
7p
Indian Red
24p
Bright Orange Red
19p
22p
1st NVI
Orange Brown and Chestnut (Bi-colour)
10p
Dull Orange
10p
Orange Brown
10p
Yellow Orange
[Orange]
9p
87p
Orange Yellow
[88p, £1.33 Amber Yellow]
88p
£1.33
Yellow
[46p Old Gold]
8p
10½p
35p
46p
Yellow Olive
[56p, £1.10 Lime Green]
6p
34p
35p
56p
£1.10
Gold
26p
1st NVI
Bistre
19p
Ochre
28p
50p
Brown Olive
[17p Olive Green]
17p
37p
Ochre Brown
4p
11½p
29p
34p
50p
Drab
[22p Stone]
22p
26p
Olive Drab
16p
Bistre Brown
[1 Wood Brown]
1
Grey Brown
41p
44p
68p
Dull Red Brown
5p
Red Brown
[54p Rust]
26p
49p
54p
Purple Brown
3½p
7p
13½p
Pale Chestnut
7½p
13p
16½p
17½p
Chestnut
24p
27p
Deep Olive Brown
43p
Sepia
35p
43p
Claret
5p
Dull Purple
20p
Purple
9½p
25p
31p
Bright Mauve
37p
39p
45p
Bright Mauve (...cont)
[48p; 67p; 1.90 Rhododendron]
48p
67p
£1.90
Bright Mauve (...cont)
[Orchid Mauve]
£1.52
Deep Mauve
[78p Orchid Mauve]
29p
31p
34p
78p
£3
Bright Lilac
[Amethyst Purple]
1st NVI

 
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