Spot Color vs. Process Color

Metzgers Spot Color PrintingWhat is a spot color?
In offset printing, a spot color is any color generated by an ink (pure or mixed) that is printed in a single run. Starting with a palette of 18 basic colors, these hues are created without screens or dots. Spot color, or PMS color (Pantone Matching System), allows for a precise matching for logos and brand identity elements.

What is a process color?
Process color is the most common method used in the production of full-color print jobs.

In order to print a color image, the original file is separated into percentages of four colors; Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y), and Black (K). This is why process color is often referred to as 4c or the four-color process. The variation of CMYK percentages allows for a multitude of color possibilities.

While these colors are separated, screen tints made of small dots are applied to each of the four colors. All these colors come together again during the printing process as each color overprints onto the next. The final result is that of your full-color image.

Which should I choose for my print project?
Use Spot Colors when your project:

  • Has no full-color photographs
  • Uses only one or two colors
  • Needs a precise color match – like that of a logo color
  • Needs specific colors printed on multiple pages that need color consistency
  • Uses printing over a large area - spot colors tend to provide more even coverage
  • Needs more vibrant color usage
  • Uses special effects - metallic or fluorescent inks

Use Process Colors when your project:

  • Uses full-color images
  • Includes multi-color graphics that require many colors of ink
  • Needs more than two spot colors

Use both Process and Spot Colors when your project:

  • Has full-color images and needs portions coated with a clear varnish
  • Has full-color images that must incorporate specific spot colors – Logo color or metallic ink
  • Uses variable printing – e.g. printing in different language versions

Your Metzgers Printing experts can help you determine whether spot color, process color or a combination of both are right for your project. Call 419-861-8611 to talk about your project today.



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Toledo, OH 43607-2906

Phone: 419.861.8611

Fax: 419.861.3299

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