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A full bleed face trim on a CMYK printing job on coated paper with crop marks and a prepress approval… Did you get all that!? We know, we know, so much printing jargon, so little time…but this one we have today is an important one: process colors and spot colors.

Both spot color printing and process color printing are produced on traditional offset printing presses using printing plates and wet ink (although CMYK can do digitally, too!). They are also both used for traditional screen-printing output. But there are some key differences, too, and when you have materials and projects that you need to print, it’s best to know why and when you should go with certain colors and methods in your design. To help your understanding of the main differences between process and spot colors, read further…

What’s the Difference Between Spot and Process Colors?

Spot Colors

Spot color is an offset printing process whereby specific ink colors are mixed and put on a printing press for specific jobs. They are ink colors that are specially mixed and specifically calibrated to match a coloring system. Spot colors are typically created through an ink system without the use of screens, then matched with a color management system such as Pantone.  Generally speaking, spot colors are designated by the Pantone Matching System (PMS inks). PMS ink charts display hundreds of specific colors, including fluorescent and metallic inks. Think of this option in terms of paint swatches – one specific color is picked out of similar shades from a catalog. Using PMS inks produces the most exact ink matching available and it is critical to indicate the PMS ink color for each job. These chosen inks are then put down onto paper for detailed application in one smooth run. This process makes more distinctive colors possible, if desired, and achieves an increased vibrancy overall.

Process Colors

Perhaps the most common color printing method, materials utilizing this color profile option take part in a four-color process. Each process color is created out of percentages of four different inks that can create a variety of color and hue possibilities. Process coloring is also known as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and key black). Four color process printing is done on a printing press with four (or more) heads, one for each ink color. Although not as precise as spot color printing, process color printing produces outstanding full-color output. The color image is separated into these four colors, then recreated with one color being printed over the next. The final image is almost an illusion – a cohesive image of beautiful color.

When to Use Spot Colors vs. Process Colors

Understanding the differences between these two colors in full and decoding the jargon of these terms may be a bit confusing, but each option really does provide a possible advantage for your project. When considering process versus spot color and what to know, really take a good look at your design first. Process colors are perfect to provide for a wide spectrum of colors, but it truly depends on your desired design and application.

Spot colors are more commonly used for corporate logos because of their accuracy and consistency. They’ll get you that exact color match that represents your brand. They are also wonderful for one- to three-color printing jobs, but it also depends on the quantity of prints. Lower quantities are good for printing digitally while higher quantities are a better fit to run on an offset press. Once you get to 3 colors, it is sometimes more cost effective to run full color and either digital or offset depending on quantity.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to each color printing option, but both are effective for their intended purposes.

Print With Davant

No matter your choice, your printed design is bound to turn out wonderfully. At Davant, we offer a variety of printing services to provide your company with finished projects of the highest quality. With top equipment to produce beautiful color and definition, we’ve got you covered with our service options. Talk to us today for advice on beginning your next printing project.