There isn't a way to do it in ID. In Photoshop you can do it from the color picker—enter the process build the click Color Libraries and choose a library, you'll get the closest matching swatch.
Is there a way to tell if any are needed prior to printing?
Spot colors are only needed in offset printing when the desired color is out-of-gamut to CMYK or you want to print it as solid ink with no halftone screen.
I think I understand, like metallics and foils and such? I think what I was recalling in indesign was the ink manager. Thank you
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If you have a swatch for the color, I don't see any reason you can't re-define the swatch as a spot color, it just won't be from a vendor's color matching library (unless you also choose that as part of the new definition). The important part about spot colors is they output on their own separate plate, and you can use any ink (including a custom mixed color) you want for that plate. That's maybe not quite the same thing as you were asking -- it's not the reverse of converting a spot color to process -- but it is possible.
I was watching a tutorial on the ink manager and how to find pantone colors hidden amongst a document and the guy was suggesting that spot colors are undesirable and need to be removed, I guess he said this with the intent of keeping the printing job cost lower, I don't know. Every document I've ever worked with was basic process colors but I figure I will learn this on the job so I'm not too worried about it all that much right now, I was just curious if using spot colors was okay. I was a little confused after watching this tutorial. Thank you Peter and Rob.
Adding spot colors adds expense, but it is going to be less expensive to use Black and one spot color than to use four process inks to get the same effect on a two-color job (and you generally get better results with a spot than with a process color if the color is light). There are also MANY spot colors that do not have good process simulations, so it's very common for things like corporate identity colors to specify spots and pay for the extra plates and setup charges even if the job already has 4-color images, and some things, like mettalic and fluorescent inks, can't be simulated at all.
Not all printers will give you a break on two color jobs. Some seem to be so invested in a cmyk work flow that they find a change in their system will not be worth it. This will depend on the printer, the type of press, and the size of the job.
Thanks guys, I am kind of confused by all of this but I suppose I will learn this on the job through experience. I guess I have two other questions....can a spot color be created out of nowhere and be mixed regardless of whether it exists on a swatch or booklet or does it have to comply to a certain documented standard to be mixed on the custom plate? Secondly, what is the difference between a two-color job and a four-color job (if such a thing exists)? How can I tell the difference? I hope what I asked makes sense. Thanks in advance guys.
....can a spot color be created out of nowhere and be mixed regardless of whether it exists on a swatch or booklet or does it have to comply to a certain documented standard to be mixed on the custom plate?
It's possible to mix a color not in any book, but you don't have any standard against which you can compare it if you do. That said, it is my understanding that at least some big corporations use custom inks in their logos.
Secondly, what is the difference between a two-color job and a four-color job (if such a thing exists)? How can I tell the difference? I hope what I asked makes sense. Thanks in advance guys.
On press there are two kinds of color, spot color and process color. Spot color uses opaque pigmented inks, like paints, to make one color and shades of that color. Spot colors can be combined through overprinting to make other colors, but tread carefully if you don't have a sample book of waht the result will look like.
Process colors use the four transparent inks, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black in overlapping dot patterns to fool your eye into seeing other colors. This is how you can produce a full-color photo using only four inks, and you can get a very broad range of colors (this is called the gamut), but not all that you can see. Some colors can be produced well using either spot color or process, but others are harder or impossible to produce in process inks, as I mentioned above, and if you need those colors, you have no option other than to use a spot ink (also commonly called a solid color). Another place wher you might choose to add a spot color, if you have the budget, is when using colored or shaded type. A spot gray will print crisper type than a shade of black (which will be a collection of halftone dots), and light colors in process mixes often look fuzzy at smaller sizes because they are also made of collections of dots (mixes that use 100% of one or more of the primaries are usually not a problem, but they are generally darker colors).
A one-color job uses only one plate and one ink, two-colors is two plates and two inks (though you might use tints so there are color variations, but still all the same green (for example) ink, three colors is three inks, and so on. Once you get past two colors it is often more economical to switch to four-color process since it can produce a broad spectrum of colors and most presses that are cabable of printing three spot colors in one pass are really four-color or more machines, and they are typically set up for process. Running Spot inks on a press set up to run process all day means cleaning the process inks out of the press, loading the spot inks, running the job, and then cleaning the press again, and that, as Jay pointed out, can be expensive, too, especially for a short run, so if you need three colors that can't be made from a single ink, or by mixing two inks, and they can be produced using process inks it's often better to go to 4-color process for the job, which allows to do other colors, too, as a bonus.
Most digital print technologies are CMYK (or some expanded set that might include an orange or light C,M, or Y inks) only. Any spot colors you specify would get converted to process by the device, so my feeling is it usually is better in those cases not to use spots at all unless the output will go on a press.
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You should be able to identify the number of inks used on any printed job by examining it with a loupe (if you don't see color bars someplace). Check to see if there are dots in the colors, and if so, what colors they are.