Tips For Affordable Color Printing

‐ January 28, 2014

You’re designing a new brochure, flyer or newsletter and want to make sure it looks great. You’re considering printing it full-color, but aren’t sure if that’s the best option to choose considering your budgetary needs. Here are some tips to help you decide how many colors to use and how to make the most of the colors you choose. The important thing to remember is that color brings life to otherwise dull text, photos can help drive home the main point. Digital printing for low runs is the best bet for adding color, it is very affordable. For higher run print jobs printing on an offset press will keep your cost low.

When to use spot colors. What are spot colors?

Spot colors are specific colors. Let’s say you only need one or two colors for a printed piece and your project doesn’t include any full-color photos. Your corporate colors that you need reproduced are to exact specifications and cannot be reproduced faithfully enough by combining cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK)… the four “process” colors. Or, your project calls for fluorescent, metallic or other special inks. Then you would use spot colors. You can also use half tones of the main process colors you use to add more impact to your piece.


When to use process color?

Process color or CMYK is used when you need more than two colors, usually when printing a post card or brochure and your piece includes full-color photos or graphics. Process color adds a full array of color options at your disposal and is very affordable to do.

When to use both in your design?

Use both when you want to enhance the colors by including a “bump” plate (an extra printing plate set up in one of the four process colors and meant to enhance that tone). Or, your project includes full-color photos, but your logo or corporate colors don’t reproduce well with process color inks. You can use both when your project includes full-color photos and also requires metallic, fluorescent or other special inks.

No matter what color combination you choose, there are some things you can do to ensure your project goes more smoothly. For example, as you’re preparing your artwork, make sure you aren’t “duplicating” any colors. Look through the color palette in your page layout software. Remove any duplicate colors you find and reassign the corresponding objects and layers accordingly.

Also, make sure you give your colors the same names in each application you use for the project. For example, make sure you give the color the same name in InDesign as you give it in Photoshop and Illustrator. This will help reduce confusion and ensure the colors separate properly when preparing the piece for print.

And finally, if you decide to go with process printing, use your design software to convert any spot colors you have to their CMYK equivalents. When doing so, double-check the values the software assigns to ensure good printability. For example, if Photoshop gives a color a 1% magenta value, you might want to do some tweaking to eliminate the need for that value. We’ll be happy to help you optimize your files for print and answer any questions you have while producing your files.

Another tip for color printing is always give your printer a printed sample of the item or color you want matched. The reason is that the color you see on your computer monitor will be different than the color you see on a printed piece. Unless your monitor has been color calibrated don’t assume the finished product will look like your computer monitor. Also colors can vary greatly from computer monitor to computer monitor. When the exact color is important always ask for a printed color proof. Please note if we have a printed sample of the color you are trying to match, we can usually match it.

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The use of color can bring a printed piece to life. Color can also improve the response rate of direct mail like postcards or brochures. Give us a call, we would be happy to help you out.

Mark Hale



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