What is the difference between spot colour and full colour?

The ‘Full colour’, ‘four colour’ or ‘CMYK’ process combines dots from each of the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (or ‘Key’) inks to produce a colour. These four inks are combined in different percentages and at different screen angles to create a range of colours. Not all colours can be reproduced using this method, and for very small print the appearance of the coloured dots may not be satisfactory. Whilst digital printing is limited to CMYK, offset litho printing allows for any colour to be mixed and printed as a ‘spot colour’. The most common system is the Pantone Matching System, which gives each colour a PMS number, each of which has its own recipe of basic ingredients (e.g. Pantone 486 is mixed from two parts Yellow, two parts Rubine Red and twelve parts Transparent white basic inks). So whereas using CMYK the colour is mixed as the ink dots hit the paper, in spot colour printing a quantity of ink is physically and precisely mixed from a wide range of base colours (which includes transparent white) and introduced to the printing press as a one-off colour. The advantage of spot colour printing is that the colour is more solid, more consistent and more accurately rendered than using CMYK. However it is a more expensive process. Please feel free to ask us for advice if you want a strong and individual spot colour to make your printing stand out.

Posted in: Artwork and Technical Printing Questions

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