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Thread: Using Spot Colors for Printing

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    Default Using Spot Colors for Printing

    Another member here, who shall remain nameless (Blessed), has pointed out the importance of the use of two, three, and four color printing and how a lot of designers fresh out of art school are not well versed in the use of these colors for printing. If I understand correctly, these colors are referred to as “spot colors,” and they can be used instead of or in addition to process colors (CMYK) for printing. I'd like to open a discussion about spot-color printing, its typical uses, and how software like InDesign can be used to create printed documents that incorporate spot colors. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Jagella

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    Sorry for the delay in getting to this question the last few days have been crazy... oh and by the way my name is Jenn - I just blog on my personal blog as "Blessed" so I keep using the name.
    ~Jenn
    Crazy Dog Creative: Graphic Design and Marketing

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jagella View Post
    If I understand correctly, these colors are referred to as “spot colors,” and they can be used instead of or in addition to process colors (CMYK) for printing. I'd like to open a discussion about spot-color printing, its typical uses, and how software like InDesign can be used to create printed documents that incorporate spot colors. Any information would be greatly appreciated.
    You are understanding correctly... for example this company (HNTB) an internationally known engineering firm uses a two color logo - it is an Orange and a very dark Gray - all of their letterheads, envelopes, business cards, and etc... are printed in these two colors on shells (the company I used to work for did a lot of their work...) Also whenever they do a four-color job they actually do a six color job and print the CMYK portion then print the logo in their logo colors.

    A lot of the larger companies, and even smaller companies, I've worked with do similar things - they have a logo with two or three spot colors - usually using the Pantone Colors, commonly referred to as PMS colors) and then print letterhead shells, envelopes, business cards, invoice shells, etc... in those spot colors. Some of them stick to those spot colors for their logos when doing CMYK printing and some of them just convert the PMS colors to CMYK.

    Usually those colors are incorporated in Quark or InDesign by importing the EPS logo that was created in those colors using Illustrator (you can also do spot color with Photoshop - but in the past at least it was a bit odd - I used it for doing duotones for a company newsletter that were black and the company's PMS green). The PMS colors are then added to your list of available colors and can be used elsewhere in the document for lines, highlights, fills and etc...

    Another application I've seen for spot colors is that there is a hotel group that I do Christmas cards for every year and they always do a CMYK background - used to be a picture, but a couple of years ago I did a skyline for them and they really like that and keep using variations of it - then print "Happy Holidays" and some other accent on the picture in one of the PMS Metallic inks - just for the look of the metallic ink.

    Clear as mud?
    ~Jenn
    Crazy Dog Creative: Graphic Design and Marketing

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    Hi Jenn:

    Online I usually go by "Jagella," but you may call me "Joe" if that makes me seem more normal.

    Anyway, why use spot colors at all? Why not just use process colors (CMYK) for all printed documents? The Illustrator help file says: "Spot color inks can accurately reproduce colors that are outside the gamut of process colors. However, the exact appearance of the printed spot color is determined by the combination of the ink as mixed by the commercial printer and the paper it’s printed on, not by color values you specify or by color management." So I understand that a spot color may not be available when using CMYK, and you need to try to come up with a close match on screen prior to printing. Is that about right?

    Thanks!

    Jagella

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    Some spot colors can be converted to CMYK very accurately - others can't - so, if a company has a logo that uses a specific PMS color and that color cannot be accurately represented by a CMYK rendering then it is up to the company to decide how important it is for them to have that exact color.

    For HNTB it's VERY important and their orange cannot be accurately represented by CMYK, the gray can be matched pretty close, but even it isn't 100%. As four-color printing has become more and more popular staying true to the exact PMS logo color a company has picked has become less of an issue but for some companies it is still an exact science and something their marketing departments care very much about.
    ~Jenn
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blessed View Post
    For HNTB it's VERY important and their orange cannot be accurately represented by CMYK...
    Where did HNTB find the orange hue they seem to like so much? Is it printed on a swatch?

    Jagella

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    Yes, it is one of the Pantone colors - if I remember correctly it is 172 (and the gray is PMS 433).

    On another note - we had an HP Indigo Digital Press and could pretty closely reproduce the orange using a hexachrome color build - basically cyan, magenta, yellow, orange, violet and magenta again. But using straight CMYK the orange was never bright enough.
    ~Jenn
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blessed View Post
    But using straight CMYK the orange was never bright enough.
    Yes, I've noticed that CMYK hues tend to be duller on screen than RGB. CMYK has a smaller gamut as you probably know.

    Why was that particular hue of orange so important?

    Jagella

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    It's all about branding and keeping your message/identity completely consistent. You'll find that this is really an issue with a lot of the larger companies - especially if you end up working for one of their printers or in their marketing departments
    ~Jenn
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    Getting exactly the right colors for a logo is very important for a lot of companies. We have PMS colors for all our logos and those are the "official" colors. We don't want and won't accept off color versions. We selected the particular colors we selected for a reason and I get very touchy when something is printed off color.

    There are a lot of emotions that can be inspired by color and a lot of meanings associated with colors. Some companies spend tons of money with consultants trying to find just the right color.

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