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What is Spot Color?


If a designer needs to match a particular color (a logo color perhaps) in a printed piece or has a limited budget, then spot color is something to consider. Spot colors can also be used alongside process (CMYK) colors for greater flexibility.

To ensure that a printer uses exactly the color that a designer intends, color systems were developed. The most common of the spot color standards is the Pantone Matching System or, PMS as it is more commonly known. All of the modern image-editing, vector-drawing and page-layout programs come with a full library of thousands of Pantone colors as part of the program.

In addition, designers will want to have a set of swatch books that show printed examples of the colors and their codes. Swatches are a more reliable method of matching or choosing colors than doing so on-screen. This is because monitors are illuminated by light behind them which makes colors seem brighter on-screen than they are when printed on paper. Also, colors on a monitor are created with red, green and blue light (RGB) rather than mixed ink pigments.

Though some may view spot color printing as being much more limited than CMYK printing, there are many interesting possibilities.

Two or more spot colors can be mixed to create interesting colors and effects.

Spot colors can be combined to create duotones, tritones and quadtones that can be very effective and can add some visual interest to otherwise grayscale images.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to proof spot color jobs. Most proofing systems use CMYK-based technology. Some laminated proofs, which work by attaching colored sheets of clear acetate, have some spot colors available but these are often expensive.






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