What is Spot colour and when do you use it?

In terms of brand spot colour is invaluable, it gives reliable, specified printed colour that matches across various printed items

Spot colour in litho or offset printing is a single colour generated by a specified ink that is printed using a single plate.

In the full colour printing process the basic printing colours are CMYK. Those four colours will print to offer virtually every colour you can imagine, but not all. The CMYK process is not perfect, it is flawed. For instance it cannot reproduce all the colours from your computer screen, there are print variables such as dot gain and paper substrates differ to each other,  all of which shifts colour. To create consistencey the Pantone system is used by the world the offer a system where colour does not shift or change.

You can have a spot colour in a two colour job – Back and Pantone 032 for instance, or two Pantone numbers. Same applies to a three colour job.

The Pantone System

The Pantone systems was devised in the USA and has become adopted by the print industry. The idea behind the PMS is to allow designers to match specific colours when a design enters production stage, regardless of the equipment used to print the colour.

When you specify a spot colour from the Pantone range it will offer a CMYK breakdown. You would notice from the swatch that the spot colour is different from the CMYK. If you choose the Pantone it will print that colour, if you choose to print your Pantone colour as a CMYK colour then the right hand image will be more representative of the printed colour. Some Pantone colour translate to CMYK extremely well while others cannot be replicated at all. We always design with this in mind as it can save a client a considerable amount of money.

what is spot colour

Almost certainly for brand colour you should specify a Spot colour in the printing process. An addition fifth plate is added during the printing process which when printed is exactly the same of the Spot colour on the Pantone swatch. You are not limited to one, it is possible to add a sixth, or seventh plate to the printing process..

When making a multi-color print with a spot color process, every spot color needs its own lithographic plate. All the areas of the same spot color are printed using the same film, hence, using the same lithographic plate. The dot gain, hence the screen angle and line frequency, of a spot color vary according to its intended purpose.

Spot lamination and UV coatings

Spot lamination and UV coatings are also referred to as ‘spot colors’, as they share the characteristics of requiring a separate lithographic film and print run.

Hexachromatic process

The widespread offset-printing process is composed of four spot colours: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black commonly referred to as CMYK. More advanced processes involve the use of six spot colors (hexachromatic process). This adds Orange and Green to the process (termed CMYKOG). The two additional spot colors are added to compensate for the ineffective reproduction of faint tints using CMYK colors only. However, offset technicians around the world use the term spot colour to mean any colour generated by a non-standard offset ink; such as metallic, fluorescent, spot varnish, or custom hand-mixed inks.

  • Pantone, has been dominant spot color printing system since 1980’s.
  • Toyo and DIC are common spot color system in Japan.
  • FOCOTONE
  • Trumatch
  • RAL (color space system) is a color matching system used in Europe. The so-called RAL CLASSIC system is mainly used for varnish and powder coating.

First printed by Pre Press 2002/2008/2014/2020