Printing type in colour; CMYK vs Pantone/Spot colour printing

cmyk vs pantone type printing

I recently began a job for a client, designing a brochure for a retirement village which was to be printed in CMYK. Everything was going fine then someone said it… brown text.

While very accurate, printers are not 100% perfect. Depending on the circumstances, there is the potential for a small amount of misregistration between the 4 layers of ink in process (CMYK) printing. For printing reasonable size body copy and headings this isn’t an issue, but for fine serifs and smaller text there is the potential for a few problems.

Printing is really no different to mixing colour in any situation. Whether its mixing paint for your office, or combining the light in your home projector. Creating brown (and other colours of course, but we’ll stick to brown type for this example) requires up to 4 colours to be mixed. In the example above you would be looking at 42 cyan, 70 magenta, 97 yellow and 49 black.

The above mock-up is a reasonably accurate example of the possible perils of printing full colour type at smaller sizes, compared to the drama free printing of using a spot colour.

A spot colour is single coloured ink applied to the paper in 1 pass. Obviously when ink is applied to the paper in a single pass there can be no misregistration. The result is crisp, clean edged type with no halos or irregularities.

When printing body copy, using a single ink is usually ideal, black obviously being the standard choice for most applications in CMYK printing. If particularly small coloured type is required however, using a spot / Pantone colour may be preferable, if not essential, to maintain standards of quality.

It simply looks better.

A spot colour will add an additional cost to your design project, but you can’t argue with the result.

2 thoughts on “Printing type in colour; CMYK vs Pantone/Spot colour printing”

  1. Hi Maggie,

    Trapping is only possible when printing text against a colour background, where the types edges can be overlapped onto the background.

    When you’re printing text onto plain white stock, there obviously isn’t anything to overlap with.

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