Avoid the pitfalls of Pantone and CMYK reproduction | A quick guide.

Whether you’re a designer or a marketing professional you want your print to look perfect. Like most technologies there are limitations to production methods, as they are not an exact science. Things can and do go wrong, so here is a quick guide to help you avoid the pitfalls of Pantone and CMYK reproduction.

Colour Variation with Spot Colours and CMYK

One of the biggest problems with printing can be colour variation. Manufacturers have spent millions improving technologies to minimise this, however there are still circumstances where colour variation does occur.

An instance where colour variation is difficult to avoid – comparing a Pantone Colour to its CMYK equivalent produced using 4-colour process.

Using the 4-colour printing process is a flexible means to replicating over 3,000 pantone colours in the range, however it has limitations to what can be printed. Some colours match the spot equivalents better than others, but with some colours such are oranges or metallic colours there is a clear difference.

Pantone Solid & CMYK Orange
Pantone Solid & CMYK Orange showing colour variation between the two colour formats
Metallic Pantone Guide | Print Worx
Metallic Pantone Guide which must be printed as spot colours

If you intend to use fluorescent colours or others as mentioned above, it is best to discuss printing these as an additional special colour with a commercial printer or check a pantone guide so you know what the result will look like.

Adding a varnish to the ink can also alter the colour, as can be showing the in metallic pantone guide above.

Colour Variation on Types of Paper & Board

Different types of paper or board can also alter the colour, this is due to various ways paper is made, the way ink either sits on the surface or is absorbed by the sheet. The opacity (brightness) of the sheet will also affect the colour. You can consider wet prooing a job prior to print which will enable an accurate reproduction. An article on proofing is available here.

You may also find it helpful to read two articles about paper to board to understand more. Print Paper types is discussed here along with Coated Paper Vs Uncoated Paper

Colour Variation from Digital Printing & Litho Printing

Colour variation will also occur depending on the press and technology used to during the printing process. While most digital presses are calibrated with ease, Litho presses are calibrated before and during the set-up process called a ‘make ready’ and take longer.

The inking technologies and actual process can vary results slightly too. Our article Digital Printing Vs Litho Printing considers when either process may be preferred as a printing process.

But remember all the technological efforts are only as good as the those you are working with.

RGB Screens & Pantone Colours in Print

When designing artwork for print it is important to remember that what the colours seen on your screen is not how the job will look when its printed.

Screens use a colour model called RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and thus is different from CMYK and spot used in printing.

Each screen also varies in the colours displayed and therefore is an unreliable reference source. Software such as Adobe Indesign, Illustrator or Photoshop are capable of using Pantone colour references.

Artwork should be created using the software Pantone references and screen colours as a guide only.

We’ve seen instances where designers have been disappointed that colours don’t look as they intend. When we have investigated these concerns, designers been known to hold printed copies of literature up against their screen and say “see”.

Ensure the designer you are working with is aware of the differences. You can learn more in our artcile Using computer screens for print

Industry Compatible Software

Avoid Microsoft packages such as Word or PowerPoint, they are not industry compatible and your results won’t be guaranteed. Such software is unable to output artwork ready for printing, including crop marks, bleed and colour bars which are needed during the printing process, to ensure a professional finish.

If it’s too late and your artwork was created non industry compatible softewware, output a PDF, send it to your commercial printer, pick up the phone and talk very nicely to them. 😉


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