When to Use a Spot Color in Printing
When your job requires color, you have
two options: four-color process and match colors. Four-color
process work involves the printing of cyan, magenta, yellow,
and black halftones, one over the other, at slightly different
angles to simulate the full color gamut. For a photograph,
this usually works well.
Sometimes, however, the four process colors don’t
capture the intensity or specific color you want in a certain
location within a photo. In cases like these, you can add
a “touch plate” of a fifth color (called a match
color) to accentuate specific areas. (A match color -- Trumatch,
Pantone or PMS, Focaltone, Toyo, etc. -- is created from
other colors combined to make a homogeneous mixture, in
the same way that you might mix flour and baking powder
when baking. Once mixed for your printer, your match ink
is a single color, unlike the screens of cyan, magenta,
yellow, and black laid over one another to create four-color
work.) Let’s say you’re printing a photo of
a bouquet of flowers, for instance, and you want the rich
reds to stand out dramatically. In this case, you might
add a touch plate of a fifth color, a PMS red, to bring
out the red areas within the flowers. The color will only
print in a few areas. It may be subtle, but quite effective.
Another instance where you might want to use a match color
is when your project includes your company logo. Let’s
say you’re printing a four-color brochure that includes
several full-color photos, some text, and your company logo.
It’s quite possible that you could use the four process
colors and get a perfectly acceptable product. (To get a
preview of what the finished product will look like, you
can check a Pantone process-color to match-color swatchbook,
which shows the nearest possible process color build percentages
used to duplicate a PMS color.)
But let’s say your company logo is made up of colors
that cannot be adequately represented within the process
Suppose you want to build a particular red that matches
the PMS 199 of your logo, but it appears a little muddy.
Or you want to build a particular blue that matches the
PMS 286 of your logo, but it is a little drab when compared
with the actual Pantone colors the designer of your logo
had in mind. Or, worse, what if there is a variation on
press, so that in the course of the press run the colors
of your logo shift slightly away from the colors you expect?
Perhaps the printer makes a judgment call to bring the flesh
tones in the company photos back in line, and the colors
in your logo shift dramatically in the process. What can
Hopefully, your job is already on a five- or six-color press.
If so, your incremental cost to add an extra match color
should not be that high, and your control over the colors
in your company logo will improve significantly. If your
printer is running the job on a four-color press, however,
adding a match color will be considerably more expensive.
It will require taking the job off press after printing
the four process colors, washing up the press, and then
running the job through the press again to print the match
color once the process inks have dried. In this case, you
might want to stick with the four-color process option and
skip the extra PMS color to avoid a large price increase.
The good news is that more and more printers have multiple-unit
presses (five-, six-, or even eight-unit presses) that will
allow the cheap addition of match colors. It would be prudent
to discuss these various scenarios with your prospective
printers before deciding which printer to use.
Multiple Estimates: Interpreting & Choosing Appropriate
I recently received twelve bids on
a job I solicited through the Printing Industry Exchange
website. Being of a statistical bent, I noticed the grouping
of prices. Two were about the same and very low. Two were
almost double the amount of the first two bids. The remaining
bids were in the middle, with some almost identical. What
can be learned from this?
When you receive bids from multiple vendors, don’t
assume all printers are bidding on the same specs. Printers
often do not read specifications carefully. Some make mistakes,
and some leave out important information such as bleeds
or special coatings that can dramatically affect the final
price. They may even bid on the wrong press run.
Some have equipment that exactly matches your needs (for
example, you have a long-run four-color book that needs
to be printed on a heat-set web press, but one of your vendors
has estimated the job on a sheet-fed press). To save money,
it’s almost always best to choose a vendor with appropriate
equipment, although this might involve the risk of trying
out a new printer.
Some of your vendors may be in parts of the country where
labor and materials are less expensive than in your area.
Choosing to print in a distant location does, however, bring
up the issue of freight costs, which will be more expensive
when you contract with vendors a long distance away. Also,
in such cases, you must consider how (or whether) you will
attend a press check. In some cases, the savings would more
than compensate for the necessary flight and hotel stay.
In general, if you extend your reach beyond a few vendors
with whom you have developed relationships, make sure you
compare the bids. Compare them to your project specifications
and to each other. Keep in mind that neither the most expensive
nor the least may be the best choice. Your best vendor will
have the appropriate equipment for your job, samples you
like, stellar references, and a fair price. When you reach
out to a new vendor to serve your operation, go the extra
mile to request multiple samples and reliable references.
You may save your job from going ”south.”
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]