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Spot vs Process Colour

Spot Colours

Spot colours are created without screens or dots, such as those found in the Pantone Matching System®, are referred to in the industry as spot or solid colours.

Exact Precision with Pantone

The precision begins with the printing ink manufacturers who are licensed by Pantone to manufacture inks for mixing Pantone Matching System colours. To retain their license, they must annually submit samples of the 14 basic colours for approval by Pantone. Printers can then order the colours by number or mix it themselves according to the ink mixing formula in a PANTONE formula guide. A PANTONE Chip supplied with the ink and/or job ensures that the printer achieves the colour desired by the customer.

Pantone Colour Referencing

Each colour in the System has a unique name or number followed by either a C, U or M. The letter suffix refers to the paper stock on which it is printed: C for Coated paper, U for Uncoated paper and M for Matte paper. Also created without screens, PANTONE metallic and pastel colours are considered part of the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM.

Due to the gamut of the 14 basic colours, some spot colours will be cleaner and brighter than if they were created in the four-colour process described below. Spot colours are commonly used in corporate logos and identity programs, and in one, two or three-colour jobs.

Process Colours

About CMYK...

This method of achieving colour in printing is referred to as CMYK, four–colour process, 4/c process or even just process. To reproduce a colour image, a file is separated into four different colours: Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y) and Black (K).

During separation, screen tints comprised of small dots are applied at different angles to each of the four colours. The screened separations are then transferred to four different printing plates, one for each colour, and run on a printing press with one colour overprinting the next. The composite image fools the naked eye with the illusion of continuous tone.

Colour representation with CMYK

Process colours are represented as percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Varying the percentages offers thousands of colour possibilities. When four-colour process printing is used to reproduce photographs, decorative elements such as borders and graphics can be created out of process colours. This helps to avoid the added expense of an extra plate needed to print each spot colour.

Converting spot colours to process colours.

Often times, a spot PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM colour is requested when creating a four–colour process piece. To save money, the spot colour should be evaluated to see how it will look if printed in CMYK. While some colours can be simulated well, there are many that look quite different. As the quality of the resulting colour conversion is very subjective, the designer can make decisions using the PANTONE colour bridge guide.

At Clarkson Graphic Services, we can help you decide whether your next print project should be created using Spot or Process colour. We can also provide your business with brochures, catalogues, business cards, envelopes, labels, presentation folders or any of your other business printing needs. Contact Clarkson Graphic Services today for a quotation.