When printing a job on an offset press, two color systems can be used: Spot color and CMYK.

Pantone bookIn spot color printing,  you select a colored ink for the job at hand. We call these unique colors by their PMS number.  PMS stands for Pantone Matching System, and it is the standard by which all print providers refer to ink colors.  Spot color is commonly used for business logos, business cards, and letterheads where one to three solid colors are used.  Spot colors cannot be used to print photographs or multicolored images.  The design must use solid colors because the printing press will be filled with the each unique ink chosen for the job. Each spot color is mixed using a palette of 14 basic colors; resulting in smooth, bright, and consistent hues.  The Pantone system provides a formula to create each spot color.  By using this exact formula, printers can recreate your spot colors the next time you order.  The image to the left shows an open PMS book with its range of colors.


CMYK When printing a color photograph or a range of colors, we use the CMYK color system.  CMYK, also known as ‘process color’ or ‘four color’, refers to using only the colors cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow  (Y), and black (K) in layers of tiny dots to produce the desired colors in the design.  The combination of CMYK can produce almost any color imaginable.  In this process the content in your design is broken down into these four colors.  As your paper travels through the press, each color is printed in a layer of dots in a specific order.  After all four colors have been layered on, your full color image appears.  The image to the left shows how layers of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black create a full-color photograph.

Files designed with PMS spot colors can be converted to CMYK.  This change would be necessary if you decide to use digital instead of offset printing.  Digital printing presses use CMYK as their sole color system.  If you see a file designed with RBG (Red, Blue Green), it has been designed for viewing digitally and not printing.  RGB is the color system used on computer monitors.  These files need to be converted to CMYK before being printed.

We can help you determine the best color system to use for your printing job.  We are always happy to educate our customers about printing!  Our graphic designer can work with you to plan your project, or we can work with your outside designer.  Please contact us with any questions.


Photos from Pantone.com and Pantone.co.uk