Process color printing, also known at four-color process printing, is a method that reproduces finished full-color artwork and photographs. The four colors used are C-cyan (process blue), M-magenta (process red), Y-process yellow, and K-black. These inks are translucent and are used to simulate different colors, for example, green can be created using cyan and yellow. The black ink is used primarily to create fine detail and strong shadows. Artwork and photos are reproduced when the colors in the artwork are separated, then halftoned (converted to dots). Process colors are reproduced by overlapping and printing halftones to simulate a large number of colors. These overlapping dots essentially trick the human eye to see a multitude of different colors.
Spot Colors (PMS) If you need to match a particular color, perhaps a logo color, then spot color is often the best choice. Spot colors are printed with premixed inks on a printing press or screen printer. Each spot color is reproduced using a single printing plate or screen.
To ensure that a printer uses the exact color that the designer intends, the Pantone Matching System (PMS) is used. Each PMS number references a unique spot color and these colors can be found on a swatch chart. By using this type of numbering system, people can convey the exact colors for a printed piece to each other without actually looking at the same samples.
It’s important to remember that spot colors may not actually translate to matching process colors. Unlike process printing, which prints dots of overlapping colors, a spot color is printed separately. Various shades or tints of the spot color can be created by printing smaller dots of the spot color.
Spot color printing has some advantages over full color printing:
1) Cost- Particularly on shorter runs, spot color printing can cost significantly less than full color printing.
2) Vibrancy and availability of colors. Because of the way spot colors are mixed, there are many colors that can be created with spot color inks that can’t be duplicated accurately in process color printing.
3) Consistency of color.
When to use spot color?
You want to assure consistent color for corporate logos, etc.
You want amazing BRIGHT colors which exceed the capability of CMYK Process Colors.
You need three or fewer colors and you will not be reproducing full color photographs.
You want clarity in text and crisp lines.
Sometimes customers don’t realize that black is actually a color, but it is. So if you have a graphic that just uses blue and black, for instance, it’s considered a two color job. A graphic with blue, red, and black is a three color job. You can create the illusion of more colors in a job by using shades of your PMS colors: these are know as screens, shades, or tints.
Tints are created by using only a percentage of the full color, with 10% being very light and 90% being very dark. Before digital prepress, tints were created by laying a negative with dots over the film used to shoot your artwork (this is where the term screen comes from: the negative with the dots was called a screen).
How to Pick Spot Colors
In the United States, the most popular spot color system is the Pantone Matching System (or PMS). You choose PMS colors from a Pantone Swatch book. Pantone Swatch books look something like the paint chips you get from hardware stores:
Pantone Swatch Book
At our office you can pick a PMS color by looking through the swatch book until you see a color you like. Then you use the number. Please note: You need to be careful, because the colors are printed on both uncoated and coated paper. Make sure you’re looking at the type of paper your final project will be printed on.
Uncoated PMS colors will have a U after the number; coated PMS colors will have a C after the number.
In your software program, you can pick the PMS color by displaying Pantone colors in your color picker or palettes, then just clicking on the same number that you’ve chosen from the Swatch book.
It’s important to choose the colors from the PMS swatch book, and not from your monitor. Because any two computer monitors are rarely color calibrated exactly the same, the color on screen may look very different than the actual printed color. Trust the Pantone swatch books. Even then, the printed color can vary from what you see in the swatch book, due to differences in paper, press operators, etc.
A proof printed on an ink jet or laser printer will not give a true representation of the PMS colors. Computer printers use CMYK or RGB inks, not actual PMS colors. It is best to refer to the Pantone Swatch Book to select a PMS Color. If color is critical, you can request a Press Proof, at added cost. For a Press Proof, we will schedule a day and time when your job will be on press. We then call you when we have it set-up and ready to run, then stop the press until you arrive to view and approve the Press Proof.