Printing Companies
  1. About Printing Industry
  2. Printing Services
  3. Print Buyers
  4. Printing Resources
  5. Classified Ads
  6. Printing Glossary
  7. Printing Newsletters
  8. Contact Print Industry
Who We Are

Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven 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.

Need a Printing Quote from multiple printers? click here.

Are you a Printing Company interested in joining our service? click here.

The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

This is a free service to the print buyer. All you do is find the appropriate bid request form, fill it out, and it is emailed out to the printing companies who do that type of printing work. The printers best qualified to do your job, will email you pricing and if you decide to print your job through one of these print vendors, you contact them directly.

We have kept the PIE system simple -- we get a monthly fee from the commercial printers who belong to our service. Once the bid request is submitted, all interactions are between the print buyers and the printers.

We are here to help, you can contact us by email at

Custom Printing: Adding Color in Product Design

At this time of year there’s a lot of festive holiday color out there, in many cases created with light. Color is a powerful emotional hook for everything from a winter holiday scene to the interior design of a house to the hues in fabric for garments or even wall coverings and linens (again, interior design). We have both cultural and individual associations between certain colors and their meanings. We may even have strong memories that arise and affect our moods when we see certain colors (such as the colors of a Christmas, Hanukkah, or Yule scene).

Savvy designers of all kinds take these color associations into account when designing both marketing materials and physical products.

Review of Color Theory

As discussed before in prior PIE Blogs, color is a function of light and the interaction between this light and the rods and cones in your eyes. Think about it: At night a red car will look gray, not red. Red paint in a closed paint can is actually black, because there is no light. So while not entirely subjective, color perception is heavily influenced by the individual.

In addition, women actually see color more accurately than men.

There are three primary-color-wheel models we should consider at this point. (Primary colors cannot be reduced to simpler colors.) For projected light (everything from theater spotlights to television and computer monitors), all color is created by combining red, green, and blue light in various percentages. For instance, red and green combine to make yellow. Blue and green make a light blue similar to cyan. Red and blue make a light purple similar to magenta. All three primary colors (red, green, and blue) make white. This pertains only to projected light (such as computer monitors). For these “transmissive” media, color mixing is called “additive color mixing.”

For paint, commercial printing ink, or any other reflective medium, the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. All together these three “subtractive colors” make black (as opposed to the white that is the mixture of all additive, or light-based, colors). In this color realm, red and yellow make orange. Blue and yellow make green. Blue and red make purple (darker than the magenta of “additive color”).

In both color models, the mixtures of two primaries noted above are called secondary colors.

In Understanding Color: An Introduction for Designers, by Linda Holtzschue, the author actually addresses process color mixing separately (even though it is also a “subtractive-color” model). Cyan, magenta, and yellow ink combine to produce not black but a muddy brown, to which printers add a separate black (hence, CMYK or cyan, magenta, yellow, and black or “key”).

Interestingly enough, combining two process colors (as opposed to three process colors, or three process colors plus black) yields red, green, and blue. Stated differently, any two additive colors will yield a process color (a subtractive color) when mixed. And any two subtractive process colors will yield the red, green, or blue of additive color mixing (or the combining of the colors of light).

This may be extraordinarily confusing, so you may want to Google additive, subtractive, and process color mixing online (specifically using Google Images, since it will help you find photos of these color models).

All colors are distributed around the color wheel. Mixing the primary colors yields secondary colors (the mixtures noted above). Without alteration, these colors exist in full saturation (or full purity). When you add white, black, gray, or the complement of the color (the color immediately opposite it on the color wheel), you reduce its intensity or purity or saturation as you lighten or darken it.

Color In Product Design

When I was reading Understanding Color: An Introduction for Designers, I found another interesting distinction (in addition to breaking color-mixing down into three rather than two models: i.e., additive, subtractive, and process color mixing). Linda Holtzschue lists the three ways printers add colors to manufactured products. (That is, we’re not talking about printed products here, like brochures and print books. We’re talking about product design.)

The first way manufacturers add color is by mixing the hue into the base material. For instance, when you buy Fiskars scissors at a fabric or craft store, the handles of the shears are an intense orange. In fact, those who use these scissors regularly (as my fiancee and I do in our art therapy work) can instantly identify Fiskars shears from across the room. This is a good example of how color in product design can be associated with and can transmit the perception of the quality of the product.

If you cut into a pair of Fiskars scissors with a saw, you will see that the color extends all the way through the plastic because the color was mixed into the base material as the scissor handles were injection molded. One benefit is that if you chip a pair of Fiskars, they will still be orange. This would be in contrast to a piece of porcelain which (may) only be coated with a glaze. Chipping such a product would expose the interior color.

The second method Linda Holtzschue notes is to infuse the color into the material. This is often done with fabrics. For instance, you might use a dye (a solution or chemical mixture of pigment and fluid or vehicle) to add color to wool. You can do this when the wool is just fluff. You can add color with a dye to wool that has been spun into yarn (dyeing the wool skein). Or you can dye the fabric as flat woven sheets before wrapping them into bolts of fabric. You can even wait to dye the wool when it is an actual garment. In all of these cases, though, you are infusing a chemical solution into all of the fibers of the wool.

A similar approach can be used with floor tiles. Many unglazed tiles are permeable, so you can infuse them with a color solution such that if you chip them, they will still be the same color as the unchipped portion of the tile.

(So at this point you have three options: mixing the colorant into the base material, as with the scissor handles; infusing the color into the absorbent base material, such as dyeing fabric or certain woods and ceramics; and just applying color to the surface of a product, such as painting on or adding a glaze to the surface of a ceramic plate or tile.)

Many products combine two or more of these three options. For instance, you may dye a bolt of fabric and then use inkjet equipment to add a further design to the surface of the fabric before turning it into a garment.

There are certain benefits and challenges in these three approaches. On the plus side, as noted above, if solid plastic used for a kitchen or sewing product has colorant throughout the base material, chipping will be less of a potential issue. The same is true for colorants used in tiles for walls, floors, bathroom showers, etc.

One downside is that producing multiple colors of a product can be costly and can necessitate either storage of inventory or a limiting of color options. For instance, let’s say you are producing a series of tiles that have a greenish, pinkish, or bluish cast. If you infuse color into the tiles, you need to keep a supply of all of these in stock. In contrast, if you have a consistent color for one base material and you inkjet the background tone and the veins of the simulated stone onto the tiles, you can offer potentially unlimited options.

Finally, regarding infused hues, not all colorants are chemically compatible with all background tile materials (for instance). This is true for fabrics as well. (For example, you use inkjet processes for decorating cotton, and you use dye-sublimation processes for decorating polyester.)

The Takeaway

There are a few things I’d like you to remember from this blog article:

    1. Depending on whether you are using light or physical pigments, your color combinations of primary colors to make secondary colors will differ. The Red/Green/Blue of light mixing (additive color) will yield white, and the overall color gamut—i.e., all producible colors–will be wider for light than for ink or paint (subtractive color, made with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). Another way to say this is that your computer monitor will always display more brilliant, varied colors than the final print job your custom printing vendor delivers.


    1. Subtractive color mixing includes process-color commercial printing, but the primary colors are slightly different. So it is helpful to consider process color mixing as a slightly different category (or subcategory).


    1. Color is important not only in design for custom printing but also in product design.


    1. Color has rich connotations and inspires intense emotions. A savvy designer can use this to help communicate a marketing or editorial message.


    1. In product design, you can color the surface of a product, infuse a solution of color into a permeable (not plastic) substance like tile, or mix colorant into the base material (like plastic). Or you can combine these approaches to product decoration.


  1. Finally, keep in mind that design includes far more than ink on paper. Design principles and commercial printing techniques also extend into product design and interior design.

Comments are closed.


Recent Posts


Read and subscribe to our newsletter!

Printing Services include all print categories listed below & more!
4-color Catalogs
Affordable Brochures: Pricing
Affordable Flyers
Book Binding Types and Printing Services
Book Print Services
Booklet, Catalog, Window Envelopes
Brochures: Promotional, Marketing
Bumper Stickers
Business Cards
Business Stationery and Envelopes
Catalog Printers
Cheap Brochures
Color, B&W Catalogs
Color Brochure Printers
Color Postcards
Commercial Book Printers
Commercial Catalog Printing
Custom Decals
Custom Labels
Custom Posters Printers
Custom Stickers, Product Labels
Custom T-shirt Prices
Decals, Labels, Stickers: Vinyl, Clear
Digital, On-Demand Books Prices
Digital Poster, Large Format Prints
Discount Brochures, Flyers Vendors
Envelope Printers, Manufacturers
Label, Sticker, Decal Companies
Letterhead, Stationary, Stationery
Magazine Publication Quotes
Monthly Newsletter Pricing
Newsletter, Flyer Printers
Newspaper Printing, Tabloid Printers
Online Book Price Quotes
Paperback Book Printers
Postcard Printers
Post Card Mailing Service
Postcards, Rackcards
Postcard Printers & Mailing Services
Post Card Direct Mail Service
Poster, Large Format Projects
Posters (Maps, Events, Conferences)
Print Custom TShirts
Screen Print Cards, Shirts
Shortrun Book Printers
Tabloid, Newsprint, Newspapers
T-shirts: Custom Printed Shirts
Tshirt Screen Printers
Printing Industry Exchange, LLC, P.O. Box 394, Bluffton, SC 29910
©2019 Printing Industry Exchange, LLC - All rights reserved