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The different ways colour is used in the printing process

The different ways colour is used in the printing process

Colour is a key part of bringing your designs alive during the printing process. Whether you ‘re going for vibrant shades or looking to create the starkest contrasts, there ‘s no doubt that the use of colour is a powerful way to make your printed products stand out. Having an understanding of the way that colour is used in the printing process can give you more insight to work with when it comes to creating your designs in the first place.


Two key ways to print colour


The way that colour is printed will have a big impact on the aesthetic you ‘re able to produce with it. Traditional litho printing is a process that involves ink and printing presses and is the traditional type of printing. There are two main ways to print colour in litho printing:


  1. Four colour printing. If you want to see what four colour printing looks like in practice then take a look at the toner in your current printer. You ‘ll see CMYK, which is a combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black ink, which is used to create the printed colour. This option has limitations, especially when it comes to the range of colours that you can print.
  2. Spot colour printing. This is a more bespoke approach to achieving the colour that you want in your prints. Rather than working with the combination of CMYK, spot colours are pre-mixed inks that are precisely the colour specified. They often relate to Pantone numbers so that you know the colour you want is the colour you will get.


Which is the best option?


The best choice for your business is going to depend on your priorities and what matters most in terms of the end result.


  • There is no doubt that four colour printing is often the most cost-effective option, as it tends to be more widely available and doesn ‘t require a particular specified colour as is the case with spot colour printing. When you ‘ve specified a Pantone colour for spot colour printing then the printer will need to buy this – as many as you require – and this can get expensive.
  • An exact tone match. Obviously, if getting the tone precisely right is the most important priority then spot colour printing is going to be the best option. For many businesses this won ‘t be the most important factor but it ‘s worth remembering that brand colours can be a carefully guarded secret and if a precise shade really matters to your business and how you market it then spot colour printing is the way to achieve that. It ‘s worth noting that Pantone has created a range of spot colours that are designed to take into account the difference it can make to colour to print onto different materials, such as paper or metal.


Colour is often used to achieve the same end result in printing: impact. However, the ways that you approach it and the printing process that you use can be very different.

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