Spot Color – Process Color CMYK Tutorial
Spot color and process color CMYK are fundamental elements in printing on press. In addition to knowing what these terms mean, you also need to know how to designate color in InDesign.
Terms: spot color and process color CMYK
Spot color is one ink for one ink tray on a printing press. Designers usually select a Pantone® ink. If only one spot ink is in use on press, the images will be one color, as will the text.
You can use two or three spot color inks. Usually when you want four spot color inks, it is best to use CMYK process color. The exception is for example, if you have a logo color that does not reproduce well in process color. You need to print it in spot. You see, if you compare the same spot color next to process color inks, the print result may be different about half the time.
A company like Coca Cola has to have their signature red logo in spot color. It would not look like the same red in process color. Consistent branding is important for companies big and small!
Process color is CMYK and is the four inks used on a printing press. It is composed of: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Color photographs are printed in CMYK process color. Then there are duotones, but that is another tutorial!
Know the paper stock!
All we need to know about the paper stock is whether it is coated or uncoated. Books can be printed on either. The endpapers of a hardcover book are usually printed on uncoated stock, but not always. Ask us, or take a look at the quote we’ve provided.
InDesign swatches palette
There are different InDesign library options that can be selected in the swatches palette. When printing on press, go to the swatches palette and select “New Color Swatch” from the pull down menu. But, wait — there is more — a lot more!
Using Spot color type and mode
Color type: Spot
Color mode: Pantone + Solid Coated or Pantone + Uncoated, depending on the paper stock used.
Using Process color, CMYK, type and mode
Color type: Process
Color mode: CMYK or other Pantone libraries.
Use CMYK for instance, if you are picking a color out of a photograph with the eyedropper tool.
I use the library for coated or uncoated stock, depending on the stock being used. I also use the Pantone Color Bridge palettes in conjunction with physical Pantone swatch books. We have the entire physical library, so if you need a lookup, we are happy to oblige!
An Example of Spot Color versus Process Color CMYK usage: Black endpapers that are printed in color
We recently had a question about printing black endpapers. But, the self-publisher wanted a nice, rich black. She did not want the endpapers printed in solid black ink that is straight out of the black tray on the printing press. Color is subjective. But, we offer suggestions, if we are asked! The endpapers example is for a book that has uncoated endpapers.
If setting up for Spot Color, use:
Color type: Spot
Color mode: Select Pantone + Color Solid Uncoated from the pull down menu. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the color list to find black inks. Pantone Black 2 U through 7.
(U = Uncoated.)
If setting up for Process Color CMYK, use:
Color type: Process
Color mode: While you can select CMYK, you might also select Pantone + Color Bridge Uncoated from the pull down menu. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the color list to find black inks. Pantone Black 2 UP through 7. (UP = Uncoated Process.)
There is so much more to write on the subject of spot color versus CMYK process color. We are leaders in the printing high-quality books, such as photography books, coffee table books, art books, and more.
Here is another good article about color, profiles and presses.