As a designer, one of the most important decisions you must make is in regard to the colors in your design. Admittedly, there can be a lot of confusion when determining whether to use spot colors or process colors, and understanding the difference between the two can be the difference between a good and great final product. When color accuracy and consistency are crucial to your design, using a spot color is your best bet. This article provides a brief look at some main differences between spot and process colors, and some advice as to why and when to go with the spot colors in your design.
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.
There are a variety of things to consider when deciding to use spot or process colors. It’s important to look at each project individually and assess what the correct option is for that specific project. Contact Pel Hughes to discuss your options.