Spot Color Vs Process Color Printing
Spot Color Vs Process Color Printing

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June 9, 2022

If you are new to working with the print industry, you might be asking the question, “What is spot color?” In offset printing, a spot color (or solid color) is any color that is generated by an ink that is printed using a single run. A premixed color of ink is applied directly to the page. It is best used when a smaller number of exact colors are needed for a print project. In this traditional method of printing, the colors of the design are individually applied in layers so all of the spots in the custom design are filled in during the printing process. 

On the other hand, a process color is a color that is produced by printing a series of dots that contain different colors. Essentially, full color printing is a digital printing technique where all of the necessary ink colors in the design are printed at the same time.

Now that you know the main difference between spot color and process color, let’s pit the two against each other and take a look at spot color vs. process color.

What’s the Difference between Spot Color and Process Color?

The difference between process color printing and spot color printing can be summed up as follows:

Process color printing is the application of four or more standard ink colors in very fine screens and applying these colors means thousands of colors can be created (Keep in mind the four basic colors are cyan, magenta, yellow and black.) This printing technique is most useful for printing photos, paintings and images with complex colors. Spot color printing (sometimes known as solid color printing) does not require any mixing of the colors in the printing process since the colors come as pre-mixed recipes. 

There are some instances where both spot color and process color can be used on the same document for more colorful results. One of the most common examples of combining spot and process color is company brochures that use process color for color photos and spot color for the corporate logo.

When To Use Spot Color

Besides knowing what is spot color, you also need to know when to use spot color for the best results:

  • Print projects where the correct color is critical such as approved colors for proper branding on a logo
  • If the print project needs less than four colors, it is likely more affordable to print it using spot colors
  • When using metallic or fluorescent colors because these colors can be hard to replicate using the CMYK process
  • A design that includes a large area that needs to be covered by solids (for proper matching of each piece) can use spot colors for greater consistency

When To Use Process Color

Not to be outdone, here is a look at when process colors are the best choice:

  • If the printed piece uses full-color imagery or photography in the design
  • Print projects that are not color critical, require more than three colors, and need to keep costs low are ideal for process colors since spot color printing can be quite expensive due to colors not being mixed and each color requiring its own color station or printing tower
  • Print runs that need accurate color reproduction using the four-color CMYK printing process

There are times when it is necessary to choose one or the other color printing method while there are other times when it can benefit you to use both methods for the same project. Spot color printing experts can examine your project to determine which method will produce the desired colorful results. 

When you need to pick between spot color and process colors, NextPage can help you make the right choice for both your budget and printed final results.


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