14 Replies Latest reply on Apr 8, 2010 7:44 AM by StrongBeaver

    Question about Spot Colors

    StrongBeaver Level 3

      I have a question about Spot Colors, are spot colors when you use a maxium of 2-3 colors on your design compared with CYMK ?


      I've read a few links on the subject but I'm not quite clear on it. I understand that PANTONE is part of the Spot Color system, I'm designing for a Print Job and I know that the printers used are of high standards but I'd still like to get the most from these printers.  I've read some threads on the Adobe Forums and most who were using SPOT Colors had at the most 1-2 colors is it possible to have a few more ? Below are some quotes of articles I've read on SPOT colors but they still didn't help clear the fog much.


      [quote]Spot colors are specially mixed inks that come in a rainbow of colors, including some speciality inks such as metallic and flourescent. Unlike CMYK or process color which creates colors by laying down layer of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in varying amounts on the printed page, spot colors are pre-mixed and applied individually to the printed page.[/quote]


      [quote]Understanding the difference between spot colors and process colors is extremely important for anyone trying to get a colored document from the computer screen to the printing press


      Process colors consist of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, hence the term CMYK. These four inks can be mixed together to create a full spectrum of colors in a document, which is why this process is also referred to as full-color printing. For example, mixing 100 percent cyan with 100 percent yellow will result in a vivid green. Throwing in smaller amount of black ink will darken this green color.

      If CMYK was the only color option in town, the whole process would be simple enough; it isn’t, however, with spot color complicating things in the desktop publisher’s color universe (not to mention the difference between RGB and CMYK, which is best left to an article of its own).[/quote]


      Thank You.


        • 1. Re: Question about Spot Colors
          John Danek Level 4

          You're heading in the right direction.  Typically Spot colors are used in stationery packages, signage, and corporate identity materials.  So, someone like FedEx uses 2 Spot Colors in their logo.  They want it to match everywhere it's used, so to maintain its integrity, Spot colors are specified in the appropriate print medium.  Also typical is a sister trademark built of CMYK Process Color equivalents that come close to when FedEx wants to run an ad in Newsweek, Times, People, and all of the other consumer read magazines.  Pantone is not the only Spot color provider.  There are others like Toyo for instance.  You can access all of the Spot colors in Illustrators Swatch libraries.

          • 2. Re: Question about Spot Colors

            It all depends on which substrate your work is to be printed on and which process. For cartons and

            paper it would be offset, for poly bags and plastic labels etc it would be either

            Flexographic or Gravure. In each of these cases finding out which printer is going to be printing your design and aqcuiring their press spec would be ideal. However if this isn't possible there are some basic rules which can be followed.


            Litho (Offset)

            Generally offset printers like to stick to four colour process (C,M,Y,K) plus a 2 spot colours. Most can go to 8 colours max but try to create the majority from the process set.


            Flexo and Gravure are generally 8 colours maximum, however some of the better presses now go up to ten colours. This is where you'd need your printers spec.


            If you can tell me what your design is and the intended substrate I will be able to guide you further.

            • 3. Re: Question about Spot Colors
              bpylant Level 2

              When printing process (CMYK), varying combinations of those four inks create all the colors in your design. For example, a typical median blue might be 100c 65m 0y 0k.


              When printing spot, each color is printing using a single ink of that color. For example, in a black and blue design, the press would be set up with black ink and blue ink.


              As for the number of spot colors you may use, talk to your printer to find out what their limitations are. It is true that many spot color jobs are set up to print using two or three inks, but that is not a hard and fast rule -- you are limited by the number of stations on the press (and sometimes they will run the same job through the press more than once to gain additional colors).

              • 4. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                Skullmaker Level 3

                Hello everyone,


                Spot colors are used for several reasons and can be use with CMYK in one project.

                Spot colors (Like Pantone Color System) are used when you need a specific color. For example, If you do work for a brand company which uses a specific PMS (Pantone or spot) color, for example, PMS 2425, it does not matter who is the printer, who is the pressman calibrating the press, or you are producing novelty items, the color will be exactly the same.


                But is you convert the PMS 2425 to CMYK color (C=37, M=100, Y=0 and K=26) the outcome may vary from printer to printer, pressman to pressman, etc. One company can print it a little more red, other more blue, etc.


                To understand better why this variations in colors, you have to understand how the actual press works (towers, pressure of the plates, mixing, thickness of the ink, water or oil based ink, etc.)

                But with the spot color there is not mixing, thickness, etc. is just accurate color.

                For the same reason you can have a job of 5 colors: CMYK (4 color process) + 1 Spot color. For example, you are printing a full color ad, but you want to make sure the company's logo is the exact color that your client wants and paying for it.

                Also you can use Metallic PMS colors (like Gold , Silver, etc.) in combination with CMYK.


                When I should use PMS colors and when CMYK?

                Depends of the job at hand. Some times because you are printing 1, 2 or 3 color job is cheaper to print them as spot colors.

                If you are doing a design for novelty items, normally everything is printed in Spot colors. This is due that some process cannot print screens, only solid colors.

                if you are printing a brochure, you may want to use CMYK, because is cheaper. A press with 4 towers can print 4 colors. Normally these presses are set up for CMYK. But is you want to use PMS colors, then each tower to be use, have to be clean twice to make sure nothing was left from the previous job. Meaning they will charge you more in set up fees.


                Presses that have more than 4 towers can print CMYK plus PMS colors. Then again, the more towers you need to use for the project, the more expensive the job will be.


                A final note: the order of CMYK is the same order a good pressman setups press towers. First tower should be Cyan, second, Magenta, third Yellow and last black (K). Making the black appear rich black.


                I hope this helps!

                • 5. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                  bpylant Level 2
                  the order of CMYK is the same order a good pressman setups press towers. First tower should be Cyan, second, Magenta, third Yellow and last black (K). Making the black appear rich black.


                  That bit is not necessarily true. Many offset presses run K-C-M-Y (all of ours do), and the ink order itself will not determine how rich the black appears.

                  • 6. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                    Skullmaker Level 3

                    In my experience, there is a big difference when you print Yellow last (no much with text, but when you have a solid black background).


                    The reason some pressman sets the first tower as black, is because if they need to print some projects as black only, is a convenience to use the first tower.

                    • 7. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                      bpylant Level 2

                      Actually this is the print order recommended by our ink manufacturer -- the C, M and Y are formulated to print over the black.

                      • 8. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                        StrongBeaver Level 3

                        Thank You everyone for your replies, I enjoyed reading them including the parts I didn't understand that were written by Skull Maker I'm glad that my notion on what Spot Colors are was heading in the right direction, I'm not a printer specialist maybe some of you are but the information does come in handy as most don't know this type of material and just assume it will print the colors that it should, period And we know that is mostly not the case, if you have more information to share that I could understand feel free

                        • 9. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                          JETalmage-71mYin Level 3
                          function(){return A.apply(null,[this].concat($A(arguments)))}

                          function(){return A.apply(null,[this].concat($A(arguments)))}are spot colors when you use a maxium of 2-3 colors on your design compared with CYMK ?


                          That's just one kind of spot color scenario.


                          Spot color is commonly used as a means of economy (as you allude). But spot color is also often used in the same design together with CMYK process. A fifth (spot) color may be added to the otherwise CMYK job in order to print a corporate identity mark as a robust solid instead of "faking it" with a process simulation. Or, an otherwise CMYK document may include a metallic ink (spot) as a graphic element. Spot varnishes are often added to otherwise CMYK documents.


                          6-color sheetfed presses are fairly common. So "process plus 2 spots" is not uncommon.


                          Outside the assumption of offset lithography, more than 3 spot colors is not as strange as one might think. For example, s creen printing on garments using six spot colors or more) is quite common.


                          Justt think of a spot color as a separation that is printed in a specific ink other than the four normal CMYK process component inks. Generally, the intent of spot color is 'This is the color I want printed; so put this color ink in the press, instead of trying to match it by some mixture of standard primary colors." That basic concept still stands, but it has become blurred somewhat by software. It's not uncommon in graphics software to print two or more spot colors in graduated tones, blends, grad fills, etc., thereby using spot colors to simulate additional colors, much as normal process color does.


                          It's also not unheard of to intentionally substitute a spot color in place of one of the CMYK process inks. For example, I once did a set of posters targeted toward school children in which a flourescent yellow spot ink was loaded in place of the normal process yellow, in order to give the illustrations a brilliance not achievable with process yellow.


                          function(){return A.apply(null,[this].concat($A(arguments)))}

                          function(){return A.apply(null,[this].concat($A(arguments)))}I understand that PANTONE is part of the Spot Color system

                          Pantone is a brand name for a color-matching system that predates digital pre-press. Back then, it was a system of premixed inks, ink mixing formulae, and pre-printed color chip booklets (for reference) designed to provide a means of repeatability and consistency across a wide array of commercial offset printing houses.  But Pantone also provided formulae for simulating its spot colors in CMYK process. It later grew to include a Pantone-branded system for specifying process colors. Pantone now publishes and licenses its color specs for inclusion in sofware like Illustrator. So while Pantone is still probably the most widely-used "color book" for spot colors, it is inaccurate to think of it as "only spot colors."


                          Pantone's focus has always been offset printing. Because of its popularity and familiarity there, it is often used as a "ballpark" reference in other media and other color libraries. A customer might tell his sign company, for example: "Our logo color is Pantone 285; use the vinyl color you have that is closest to that." (As you can imagine, such use is informal, and therefore subject to inaccuracy.)



                          • 10. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                            Hugh Betcha Level 1

                            To simplify everything, a spot colour is what occupies a seperate ink fountain on a litho press. Usually presses are pre-loaded with CMYK, but then any spot is added to that - for example spot red is loaded into a seperate fountain so the press would have C,M,Y,K and Spot Red fountains. The spot red in this case, would be used to maintain consistency and/or brightness of colour (otherwise the red would be composed of CMYK and would be subject to fluctuations in the print run (either through error or on-press colour adjustments), while not having the same 'intenslty' of colour. Spot colours usually use more pigment and/or opaque white in their recipes.

                            • 11. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                              StrongBeaver Level 3

                              The information presented here packs alot of information, although some parts I'm still unclear of maybe that is because I've never seen printers at work doing this type of stuff or got a "tour" of how this works. My designs usually went behind closed doors and the rest remained a mystery to myself


                              I now have a foundation of how SPOT colors work, the printers I will be printing my current Print Job will be digital from my understanding.  I don't want you guys to exhast yourself explaining you have done enough if I shall have problems now or in the future if the need arises for a SPOT color job I won't hesitate to ask as you guys have been very informative and helpful, I assume some of you deal with this stuff all the time?

                              • 12. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                                Wade_Zimmerman Level 6

                                Now you are certainly showing you are made out of professional stuff.


                                You are actually correct going on press is essential for a rounded professional experience.


                                Learning how to discuss the situation with the production personnel is a big help.


                                You should find an opportunityto go on press that is the supervise the printing, or ask a printer for a tour and a chance to watch the process.


                                If you can get a job that has a press proof that has been approved then that is the best so you can see hyow they adjust the pressure of thye press and the ink coverage.


                                And if it does not look right to you tell them and see how the printers react so you know what you are up against.

                                • 13. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                                  Ben-odo-1977 Level 1

                                  Wade is right StrongBeaver. Getting on press is one of the best things any repro/designer can do. It gives a massive insight into how designs can be adjusted on press and the limitations of each printing process. It also gives you an idea of how and when you should keep designs simple or whether you can get a little more adventurous. I have been on lots of print runs now for my company and have been responsible for signing off designs for some very large blue chip clients. It's daunting at first but improves your knowledge of the bigger printing picture to no end. It was the most helpful part of my career to date. Learning the software and methods of design is fairly simple. However adding to that a knowledge of repro and printing will make your life so much easier and will give you the ability to design with confidence knowing what you send out is more or less what your likely to see.


                                  Good Luck.

                                  • 14. Re: Question about Spot Colors
                                    StrongBeaver Level 3

                                    Thank You again, I'm going to hopefully find some time and find a print shop that I can take a tour at, some are not so open to it but I'll continue looking