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Colour/s - Spot vs Process

In offset printing, a spot color is a special premixed ink that requires its own printing plate on a printing press. The colors are produced without the use of screens or multicolor dots, and the colors or your design are applied individually in layers filling up every spot in your custom design. Usually spot colors are created through an ink system such as the Pantone Matching System, which can either provide a standard solid color that can be purchased whole or mixed before printing.

In contrast, process color is a way of mixing inks to create colors during the actual printing process itself. A process color is printed using a combination of the four standard process inks: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). Also used in offset printing, process colors are the more common method of printing. Although the amount of process colors through CMYK may seem endless, process colors actually provide a limited color range.


Pantone Spot Color

As mentioned above, spot colors are usually created through the Pantone Matching System, or PMS. A Pantone color is a standard color in the PMS that is used as a color reference system in most printing and printing-related industries. Spot colors can vary widely and by utilizing a system such as PMS, spot colors can be consistently reproduced and ensure accurate production of printed or manufactured goods across the globe.


Why Use Spot Color

As noted above, process colors can be fairly limited in their color range as the final colors are merely a combination of CMYK colors. Because spot colors layer an infinite amount of colors, they can provide a much more vibrant and detailed color. In addition to the variety of options, spot colors provide much better consistency from page to page. When printing a solid color with process inks, there may be slight variations in the color balance that can affect the color’s consistency. While spot colors may cost a bit more, they can add a lot to your project making the extra cost well worth it in the end.


When To Use Spot Color

Spot colors are best used when colors are outside of the CMYK range or when accuracy is crucial, such as in company logos or color-specific brand elements (think Starbucks green or McDonalds red and yellow). Spot colors should also be used in printing jobs that require printing over a large area because spot color inks can provide more even coverage. Additionally, projects that require special effects such as metallic or florescent colors should use spot colors. Spot colors can add a little something extra to your project.


Info courtesy Pel Hughes


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