Spot Colors and Process Colors

I have already discussed the different color modes and their uses.   For example, we now know to use CMYK color mode for print publication and RGB color mode for on-screen publications.   However, there are a few other terms we as designers and photographers should be familiar with.   We should know the definitions and differences between spot colors and process colors.

Spot Color Vs. Process Color

Spot Color can be defined as a method for printing in which each color will be printed in one printing plate by using its own matched color of ink.   Process color is a different printing method in which a color is printed using only four separate printing plates that each uses four specific colors (CMYK).   The spot color printing method is usually followed when the design uses only one or three different colors.   For example, when a company wishes to match their logo’s exact colors in a publication.

Designers and Colors

As knowledgeable graphic designers we must understand and apply our knowledge of color printing processes into our designs.   For starters, designers have to choose only one method (spot color or process color) for their artwork’s file.   In order to create spot colors and process colors in any design software you can simply add a new swatch to your color palette.   You can do this by choosing a Pantone color from the PANTONE Solid Coated swatch window.   You will be able to switch between spot and process colors in the Swatch Options window.   And you will also be able to know when the color chosen is a process color or a spot color, because the swatch will have either a black dot on the bottom right corner triangle (in Illustrator), or a grey square with a grey dot on it (InDesign).

Primary Process Colors

The primary process colors in print are CMYK.   Each plate or ink cartridge will contain one of the four inks.   C stands for the Cyan color ink.   M stands for the Magenta color ink.   Y stands for the Yellow color ink.   K stands for the black color ink.   Each process color has a measurement of how much Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and/or blank does it require to make that exact color.

Benefits and Drawbacks

One of the drawbacks of using the spot color printing method is that each different ink color is somewhat expensive to produce.   Therefore, most spot color printing jobs will only have one, two or three colors.   Using more than three spot colors would result in a very expensive bill for the printing job.   When printed colored text using the spot color method, the printer will not have that much trouble, because there will be one specific ink to be printed on the paper, once, to create the text.   However, when printing colored text using the process color method, the printer may have trouble with registration.   Because the printer has to go over the same spot to create the text with each one of the inks, the text could have a slightly blurred effect if the printer is not precise, particularly if the typeface is very delicate and has fine serifs.

How to Create Spot Colors and Process Colors in Illustrator Video Tutorial

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