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PrintProductionFAQ.com» Color http://printproductionfaq.com Your frequently asked print production questions answered Sun, 10 Jul 2011 15:24:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 Good Pantone Metallic Chip Reference Numbers http://printproductionfaq.com/good-pantone-metallic-chip-reference-numbers/ http://printproductionfaq.com/good-pantone-metallic-chip-reference-numbers/#comments Fri, 27 Aug 2010 00:52:24 +0000 printprodfaq http://printproductionfaq.com/?p=249  

Pantone books and fan guides

While it’s ideal that each designer has their own Pantone metallic fan guide or metallic chip book for reference sometimes their not easily accessible or simply not in budget.  Below are some of the best PMS metallic chips used for Gold, Silver & Copper.

Pantone Metallic GOLD

PMS 871c — a touch green
PMS 872c — a touch red

Pantone Metallic Silver

PMS 877c — a touch yellow
PMS 8180c — a touch blue

Pantone Metallic Copper

PMS 875 C
PMS 876 C — a touch red
PMS 8580 C — a touch yellow

Do you have a favorite Metallic Pantone Chip Number not mentioned here?  If so leave a comment telling us what it is!

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Monitor Color Accuracy and Calibration http://printproductionfaq.com/color-calibration-of-your-monitor/ http://printproductionfaq.com/color-calibration-of-your-monitor/#comments Wed, 18 Aug 2010 02:13:53 +0000 printprodfaq http://printproductionfaq.com/?p=130

Calibrate your Monitor

It should be stated that it’s practically impossible for your monitor to accurately reproduce all colors so this is one of the largest print production issues that every designer & retoucher face.  That said with good color calibration and a quality monitor you should be able to get most of your colors relatively close to what will actually print on press for most colors.

The basic difficulty is that all monitors emit light based on RGB and not CMYK.  This hardware color mode difference makes it difficult to match CMYK accurately but it also makes it possible to reasonably replicate Pantone colors outside of the CMYK gamut.  On top of all this color mode madness, paper finish (coated, matte & uncoated) is something that cannot be replicated so there will always be some variance in color but our gold is to minimize this as much as possible.


When looking to select an LCD display it’s important to examine the underlying technology which drives the display.  Twisted Nematic (TN) based monitors are by far the most common monitors on the market due to their inexpensive nature, bright colors and quick response time (great for movies & games).  Unfortunately, they generally have the poorest color accuracy and consistency. In-Plane Switching (IPS), and to a lesser extent, Vertical Alignment (VA) based monitors generally have much better color accuracy & consistency so not only are you colors true but there is less variance from one side of your screen to the other.

If your on a tight budget an entry level IPS monitor is the 21.5″ Dell U2211h. Moving up the price/quality range you may wan to consider the 24″ HP LP2475w or a 24″ Apple Cinema Display.  Still above these are the ultra high end monitors which provide the best color accuracy & consistency but can easily cost $2000+.

Another consideration is the color gamut of the monitor.  If your working with print and online then you should consider a standard gamut sRGB monitor rather then an extended gamut monitor.  The extended gamut monitor will show colors outside of the RGB range which can provide you with unrealistic colors for standard net usage.  Extended gamut monitors are beneficial for video editing if your videos will be shown in NTSC format (ie. will be viewed on TV sets).

Hardware Color Calibrators

A good monitor is not the end of your work to get most accurate color possible.  The next step is calibrating your color monitor hardware based color calibrators will provide the most accurate color calibration possible: Two of most popular hardware based color calibration systems for graphic pros are ColorVision Spyder3 pro or X-Rite Eye-One

Software Only Color Calibration

If your using an Apple monitor it’s important to realize that Apples built in color calibration software is a poor substitute for a hardware based solution.  Don’t believe me?  Try holding a the a Pantone CMYK or Bridge guide up to your monitor after software color calibration.  You’ll see that getting even these basic colors down is beyond the ability of a software only solution.  Of course even this is better then no calibration.  Monitors should be periodically re-calibrated (especially if your lighting conditions have changed) as the output characteristics of your monitor will change with time.

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Uncoated, Matte and Coated Paper (Medium) http://printproductionfaq.com/uncoated-matte-and-coated-paper-medium/ http://printproductionfaq.com/uncoated-matte-and-coated-paper-medium/#comments Wed, 28 Jul 2010 01:40:53 +0000 printprodfaq http://printproductionfaq.com/?p=203 Knowing the coating, or lack thereof, of the final printed medium is and essential to proper print production.  When selecting a color that will be printed on uncoated paper be sure to reference the uncoated pantone fan guide or chips as theres major color differences between coated and uncoated.  If your printing on Matte but only have a coated and uncoated fan guides or chip books you should reference the coated color as it will likely be relatively close to this.  When setting up your files you should use the proper uncoated/matte/coated swatch and not select a coated swatch if printing on an uncoated stock.  This also applies when selecting 4 color process or bridge swatches as the values used are different for each coating style.

Quality of stock

Your choice of coating on the paper will not only effect final color but also clarity and sharpness.  Coated stocks will give you the most clean crisp edges on your type and art.  Printing on uncoated stock will generally result in a less crisp image but the quality of your coated or uncoated stock will also have a major impact on this.  When printing on coated stock, selecting a quality stock is essential to having crisp art but it becomes even more crucial when printing on uncoated stock.

Ink spread or registration problem?

Uncoated paper is also more likely to have ink spreading issues (therefor the lack of clarity).  You can identify an ink spread vs. registration problems by seeing if the ink is merging on all sides instead of just one (as it would if it was a registration issue).

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Color Modes — CMYK, RGB, Greyscale, Pantone http://printproductionfaq.com/color-modes-%e2%80%94-cmyk-rgb-greyscale-pantone/ http://printproductionfaq.com/color-modes-%e2%80%94-cmyk-rgb-greyscale-pantone/#comments Wed, 21 Jul 2010 04:00:25 +0000 printprodfaq http://printproductionfaq.com/?p=193 RGB vs. CMYK

These are the two most common color modes.  RGB is used for web images so all art intended for the web should be designed in RGB.  Most print jobs should be designed in CMYK unless you and your printer agree to work in an RGB workflow (not typical).  You may want to consider an RGB workflow if the internet is your primary publishing and/or most of your printing is hexachrome instead of CMYK (not typical).

If you design in RGB and then convert to CMYK you may be in for a big shocker when you convert the files due to the different color gamuts of RGB vs CMYK.  RGB supports much richer colors which are not supported by CMYK.  When you convert form RGB to CMYK you may see your vibrant oranges (and other vibrant colors) turn dirty and less vibrant.  Not the sort of limitation you want to find out after you designed your whole piece around this color.  Good print production thinking is that It’s best to work in the right color mode from the start.  Pantone 4 Color process fan guides can help you get a good idea of CMYK limitations and how specific values will print.

Color Modes

Color mode conversion

RGB to CMYK, in the Photoshop edit menu select convert to profile and then select the profile your printer uses (typically US Web Coated (SWAP) v2).  This will produce more accurate color then converting via the Image/Mode menu as it allows you to assign the appropriate color profile in addition to CMYK conversion.

CMYK to Greyscale

Often color images need to be adapted for greyscale use for one color printing mediums like black & white newspaper or magazine ads.  One way to convert is to simply select CMYK or RGB to Greyscale but areas that previously had contrast due to different color channels may loose this contrast when converted to greyscale.  A better way to convert is to use the either Black & White adjustment or the Channel Mixer which can both be found in the menu Images/Adjustments.  Turn on the “Monochrome” checkbox and adjust the CMYK levels appropriately.

Black & White: Adjust the sliders as desired to make sure there is proper contrast for important areas of your image.  Once satisfied use convert to profile in the edit menu.  Profile “Working Grey – Dot Gain 20%” is a common North American greyscale profile.  Be advised that the “Dot Gain 20%” means it will increase the midrange black tones by 20%.

Channel Mixer: To maintain the same density, you should keep your CMYK percentage total at 100%.  When you sample the art you’ll notice that you only have color in the black channel.  Once satisfied use convert to profile in the edit menu.  Profile “Working Grey – Dot Gain 20%” is a common North American greyscale profile.  Be advised that the “Dot Gain 20%” means it will increase the midrange black tones by 20%.

RGB vs CMYK workflow

CMYK is the printing standard and should generally be used.  An RGB workflow may prove beneficial if you use hexachrome (6 color) printing since hexachromes’ color gamut is wider then CMYK. That said, hexachrome printing is not the general printing standard due to additional printing costs so if your not going to use this printing method RGB images should be converted to CMYK.  If you don’t do it, this will occur at the printer and be out of your control (some colors may shift dramatically).

Another reason to consider an RGB workflow is if web publishing has much greater importance and frequency then printing and you can only maintain one set of images (CMYK or RGB) then you may also want to consider an RGB workflow but you may find in the end it’s easier just to maintain CMYK versions so you have less surprises when on press.

4C vs. Spot

Spot colors are premixed inks that the printer lays down (Pantone is most commonly used) vs inks that are mixed on the fly during press operation.  Due to this Spot colors have less color variance.  Spot color also have a larger gamut then CMYK and can achieve some colors not possible with CMYK like vibrant oranges.  If budget allows consider setting your print job up as 5 or 6 color, CMYK for general color in photographs and one or two Spot colors for a nice color that will be used throughout the piece or in a very important spot.  When impressive metallic colors are needed, spot metallics are the only way to go.

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CMYK, RGB, Greyscale, Pantone, Toyo — what to use and when http://printproductionfaq.com/cmyk-rgb-greyscale-pantone-toyo-%e2%80%94-what-to-use-and-when/ http://printproductionfaq.com/cmyk-rgb-greyscale-pantone-toyo-%e2%80%94-what-to-use-and-when/#comments Wed, 14 Jul 2010 02:59:55 +0000 printprodfaq http://printproductionfaq.com/?p=40

CMYK RGB Pantone Gamut

Color Gamut CMYK vs RGB vs Solid

CMYK also has a more restricted color gamut (range) then either Solid (Spot) or RGB (ie. impossible to get some colors such as a bright vibrant orange in CMYK). This is the reason that when you convert a color from RGB or spot to CMYK the color may shift or loose vibrancy. This may prompt the question why would I want to make a file CMYK when it limits my color range. If your printing 4 color process, your file will be converted to CMYK by either you or your printer. If you convert it you have control and a better idea of what the final outcome will be before you see the final printed piece. This gives you the opportunity to make changes and work around any problem areas.

CMYK Color and Accuracy

Keep in mind that CMYK (process color) is mixed by the press on the fly and there will be some variance but it should not be to much (ie. an aqua should still look aqua, not blue or green). Process printing is more prone to registration issues as it involves the alignment of at least 4 colors (more colors, more likely one will be mis-aligned). You can easily identify this if you see that all images have what appears to be a slight shadow of a color (such as Yellow) on one side. This should be very minimal and unnoticeable to the naked eye if using offset printing. Flexography is more problematic with this so you may need to push your printer to do a better job.

Solid (spot) Color and Accuracy

Solid colors (ie PMS 123c) may also have registration alignment issues like process except they will only appear in color overlap areas where you have one process color intersecting with either another spot or process color. Like CMYK registration issues, you can identify this by seeing a shadowy or dark area where colors intersect. This should be very minimal and unnoticeable to the naked eye if using offset printing. Flexography is more problematic with this so you may need to push your printer to do a better job.

Pantone CMYK swatches in Adobe Indesign, Illustrator, Photoshop & Quark Xpress (ex DS 123-4c)

These colors are listed as DS XXX-X follow by the finish (u/m/c) and are beneficial when printing 4 color process (CMYK). The Pantone Plus CMYK fan guides show you a close approximation of what this color should look like when it runs on press. While printing in CMYK is not restricted to DS colors you are making what is at best an educated guess of how you think they’ll come out if you have no base of reference for a specific color breakdown. With process colors you can use an unlimited amount of colors on your page (which is essential for color photography and colorful graphics) but color consistency is not as accurate as using solid colors.

Pantone Color Bridge (Pantone 123pc)

These colors are listed as PMS XXX follow by the finish (up/pc) and best used when your trying to match a Pantone spot color but cannot use a spot for some reason (usually cost). Most of these Pantone bridge color values are not found in the CMYK fan guide so having a bridge guide can also expand your CMYK color references.


Greyscale is commonly used when printing using only black ink.  This is typically done to keep costs down but it obviously limits you to white, black and shades of grey.  If you convert a color image to greyscale you should check that areas that formerly had much contrast due to color differentiation still have the proper contrast.  Often adjustment is required to reestablish proper contrast between important colors.

6 color printing (hexachrome)

This is similar to 4 color process except it uses 6 colors with the same basic idea used many inkjet printers these days. This allows for an expanded color gamut over 4 color process but the printer will usually charge more. There are no Pantone guides for this printing as of this writing as it is less common. If you intend on doing a lot of hexachome printing an RGB workflow may be beneficial as it will allow you to more fully exploit the the expanded color Gamut. If you use CMYK files in 6 color printing you will likely see little color benefit since the files are restricted the 4 color gamut. The exception to this is that the pressman can shift the colors out of the 4 color gamut so this may still prove useful if someone is on press to tweak the colors.

Solid/Spot (Pantone 123c)

These colors are listed as PMS XXX follow by the finish (u/m/c) and used when your printing spot colors. You should use the a Pantone Fan guide to select the proper color and not trust what color shows up on your screen when selecting a spot color for usage. Spot colors should match the chips you provide to your printer extremely closely on final printouts. The paper (or other medium) that your final printed piece will be on can influence the color but a good printer will adjust to compensate for any discoloration introduced by the paper (within reason). Metallic spot colors (see the 8xx and 8xxxx Pantone range) such as golds, silvers and copper can help add a great look to your printed piece and should not be overlooked. Pantone Metallic guides allow quick browsing of the wide selection of metallic and semi metallic colors commonly available. Although there are Pantone spot colors for uncoated Metallics, in reality they print quite poorly and I recommend you only use them on matte or coated pieces unless your prepared to be underwhelmed.

Sending Pantone Chips to a printer

Always send Pantone chips (from your pantone chip books) to your printer when printing with spot colors to your printer as they may have old discolored chips on hand that their matching to. If you print with the same printer and regularly use a color (like in a logo) tell them to hold onto that chip for future color reference as you’ll quickly run out of chips if you do lots of printing with one specific color (such as in a company logo or always used brand color).

Solid/Spot (Toyo 1234c)

Toyo is a competing color standard to Pantone. It’s infrequently used in North america but has broader use in Europe and Japan. Any good printer should be able to match a Toyo chip if you send them one. Toyo chips can be handy in filling in some of the Pantone color gaps when you need a specific color (ie they may have the perfect color your looking for). If possible it may be worth picking up a chip book for use when you cannot find the right color in your Pantone guide.

Random color swatches as Spot colors

Ever see a paint chip in a hardware store and think that would be the perfect color for a project? Any good printer should be able to match most color swatches or samples. In your document mark this color as a spot and give it an appropriate name (ex. custom spot blue) and send 1/2 of the swatch to your printer and keep the other half for your reference. Be sure to communicate with your printer that their to match the custom swatch your sending them.

Using Solid & CMYK in the same document

You can design your documents using both CMYK (or RGB) and spot colors. If you print using CMYK and 2 spot colors then you’d be running a six color print job. This will usually costs you more but may be worth it if the two spot colors are used a lot or are very important such as in an established brand colors.

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Pantone Color Chip Books & Guides http://printproductionfaq.com/pantone-color-chip-books-guides/ http://printproductionfaq.com/pantone-color-chip-books-guides/#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2010 02:37:56 +0000 printprodfaq http://printproductionfaq.com/?p=5 pantone plus chip books and fan guide set - print production faq


Pantone Plus Fan guides provide quick color references while Pantone Plus solid chip books provide you with small chips you can send to the printer for color matching.  You can use chip books as a color guide but in reality is a lot slower to look up and compare colors this way (time is money right?).  If you cannot afford all the Pantone books and guides consider getting a coated and uncoated chip book as well as an uncoated and coated bridge fan guide.  This will give you chips to send as well as easy spot reference and 4 color (CMYK) equivalents.  A few basic metallics are also in the u/m/c guides although the metallic guide is much more comprehensive.  If possible, acquire the entire set as it is helpful.

When possible, one should always consult the guide or chip with the proper finish of uncoated, matte or coated (u/m/c).  Uncoated have no shine to them and the colors tend to be dull and often dirtier looking.  Matte has some shine to it and the colors tend to be much more vibrant then Uncoated.  Coated has the most shine and the colors are vibrant.  If you do not have a matte fan guide or chip you can examine a coated chip to get an approximate idea of what it will look like (except a bit less shiny and a tiny bit less vibrant).

Pantone recommends you replace all your books, chips and guides every year to ensure color accuracy. If that’s not possible consider replacing them every two years (or at least the ones you use most frequently).  Undesirable factors that can effect the accuracy of the guides and chips are prolonged exposure to light (ex leaving your pantone book open sitting in a window over the weekend may damage the open page), oxidation (going to happen regardless under normal circumstances which is why you need to replace every year or two) and extreme heat (ex the window again…).  If possible, best to keep then in a drawer or cabinet when not in use.  Colors will tend to lighten and yellow with time.  if you happen to have an old pantone book, place a bright white sheet of paper behind it, the white looks a bit yellow now doesn’t it?

Tints are literally a percentage (screen) of another color.  You can tint back a Pantone Spot color if you feel it’s too dark which is accomplished via a screen. Pantone has a tint fan guide to help you get a better idea of what the spot color will look like tinted but spot tints 90%+ sometimes end up looking like 100% if printed heavy. Tinting too low can also prove problematic so if you plan on tinting below 20% you should discuss it with your printer.  If you use a spot color on a document, you can use an unlimited amount of tint variants of that color and it still only counts as one spot color usage.  To ensure proper contrast, consider making your tints at least 20% or greater in difference when using multiple tints of the same spot color.  You can also tint CMYK and RGB by making global swatches in Adobe Indesign and Illustrator. This allows you to quickly lighten and darken objects proportionally.  When you tint these swatches it changes each channel proportionally.  ex. If I have a 4 color global swatch of 0c 100m 10y 0k and I make an object a 40% tint it will now be the equivalent of 0c 40m 4y 0k.

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