There are two basic groups of ink colors: Process and Spot. Process colors are standard colors used to reproduce full or four-color (4/c) photographs using color separations. Process is called 4/c because there are only 4 ink colors used Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black or CMYK. These 4 colors are evident when a magnifying glass is placed over the halftone dots of a printed color photograph. Process colors are named so because CMYK are the individual components of a coloring process that produces finished composite or full color. Process colors are also used to build or fabricate synthetic color or call-outs using flat screen tint percentages. This is common for creating colored type.
Spot color is a unique stand-alone ink. Other names for spot color are special, solid, match, fountain, logo, corporate, custom, 5th color, etc. PANTONE or Pantone Matching System (PMS) is the most popular spot color system. Pantone is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Pantone is owned by X-Rite, a color measurement instrument manufacturer. Spot colors are used to extend the color gamut or pallet beyond the limitations of process colors. Process can only simulate about 50% of the Pantone colors. From a base of 14 basic colors, Pantone offers 1,341 uniquely different colors by altering the ink formula or recipe. The colors are identified by a 3 or 4 digit numbering system, such as PMS 286 Blue. A suffix letter identifies the type of paper, C is for coated and U for uncoated. Spot colors should be used when the accuracy and consistency of a color is critical, such as corporate branding. Our 5/c and 8/c presses can print process and a spot color simultaneously in a single pass, offering productivity and quality advantages over just a 4/c press. The price of spot color is more expensive because it requires an additional plate, special ink, longer press make-ready time and paper to fit register and match color of this extra ink color.
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