Colour printing, CMYK, RGB, spot colour, Pantone, MetalFX printing
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All About Colour — A Guide to Commercial Colour Printing

How does commercial colour print work?

We use four main printing processes, depending on the requirements of your job. This article gives you the basics of commercial colour printing so you can appreciate why we suggest the processes we do when quoting for your job.

Full colour process printing (also known as CMYK)

Example of using CMYK process inks to produce a composite image

Process colour uses just four colours of ink – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – to produce a very wide range of colour possibilities, ideal for printing photographs. Because we specialise in process colour printing, and we batch jobs together for economy, it can often be cheaper to print even a simple two-colour design using process colour rather than spot colour.

Spot colour printing

A spot colour is simply an exact colour of ink, mixed to your precise requirements. Firms with a recognisable colour brand (EasyJet orange; DynoRod fluorescent red) would always specify spot colours to ensure consistency of their brand.

It often comes as a surprise to customers to find spot colour printing is more expensive than full colour printing. This is due to the labour involved with spot colour printing – first the ink has to be mixed from 14 'ingredient' colours; then the press is loaded with the ink; the job is printed; then the press has to be washed down afterwards ready for the next spot colour job. This labour requirement makes spot colour printing, especially in smaller quantities, disproportionately expensive.

Example of a Pantone® swatch bookSpot colours are most often specified in Europe and North America using the Pantone system. Swatch books like the one shown here are used to select colours, and the 'ingredients' for that colour of ink are shown underneath.

Where the four-dot symbol appears underneath the colour (as in the example on the right here), the colour can be printed almost exactly using the four-colour process described above, saving money.

Colorlogic® printing (previously called MetalFX®)

Example of how MetalFX printing worksColorlogic® works on the basis that CMYK (see above) inks are transparent – so when printed on top of specially modified silver ink, it will allow the silver to show through the CMYK, and thus create the illusion of unlimited metallic colours. The base silver has special qualities that allow the CMYK inks to adhere to it.

Colorlogic enables you to create eye-catching designs by enabling you to integrate metallic colours into photographs and create unlimited metallic colours on the same job, by only using one extra colour. Ever wanted to have gold, silver and a bronze on the same job, but never had the budget to use more than one metallic colour? Well now with Colorlogic you can have all three – and 612 others as well.

If you would like to incorporate metallic colours in to your next design simply design in CMYK as normal. Please supply us with a printed proof, accompanying your file, detailing the areas to be metallised and the colours to be used.

Colorlogic is priced on a sliding scale, as follows:

  • For 500 or fewer prints, please add 60% to the cost of the job
  • For 501 to 2,500 prints, please add 52% to the cost of the job
  • For 2,501-5,000 prints, please add 45% to the cost of the job
  • For 5,001 or more prints, please add 38% to the cost of the job.


If you would like to discuss any ideas this article might have given you, please feel free to contact us.

This article may mention companies whose names are trademarks or registered trademarks in the UK and abroad. Use of the Registered Trademark symbol (®) or its absence should not be interpreted as any implication of its perceived status as a trademark or registered trademark in the UK and/or abroad. Plain-Talk Print recognises all trademarks and/or registered trademarks.

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