Colour printing frequently asked questions

FAQs on colour printing

When it comes to print, one of the most important factors to get just right is colour. Colour is what gives a brand its identity and instant recognition. Just look at the likes of Coca-Cola and their iconic red or Starbucks with their green.

Perfecting print is what we do best. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of colour related FAQs which we hope you’ll find useful and will help ensure all your future prints turn out just as you expect.

What is a pantone colour?

A pantone colour is a solid colour used when printing 1, 2, or 3 colours. It usually carries a unique numerical reference followed by a ’U’ for uncoated or ‘C’ for coated. Pantone is an internationally recognised standard.

The term PMS colour may also be used and stands for pantone marching system.

Why have a pantone reference?

When designing stationery, a pantone colour is typically chosen. The reference is then applied to all future printing requirements.

Having a pantone reference for colour helps maintain consistency across all printed materials.

If you are using a number of different printers, supplying with a pantone number helps them match a colour standard and it maintains brand consistency for your company.

Can the colour ever appear differently?

Yes. A pantone colour can be from the same tin of ink, but the colour can appear different on uncoated and coated stock for example.

A pantone colour printed on a gloss stock will often look more vibrant than one printed on an uncoated stock. When printed on a silk stock it can vary again.

Although the makeup of the ink is the same, it’s the material that can give it a different effect.

How can we be sure we’ll know how it looks?

The printer can show you a pantone guide with the colour printed on gloss stock and an uncoated stock as an alternative. This way you can see the physical difference in how the colour looks on paper.

Looking at a pantone colour on a computer screen is not a true reflection as it’s a completely different medium to paper.

Your printer can arrange a wet proof showing exactly how it will look on the material you are using, but this can come at an additional cost.

If you are unsure of anything you should involve your printer at the early stages of your campaign so they can offer advice, avoiding potential problems further down the line.

We are printing a full colour image, but our house pantone colour looks different when printed in 4-colour process. How come?

When printing items involving photographs, the work will be printed in 4 process colours: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK for short).

Every pantone colour can be made out of a 4 colour process, but the results can look quite different to a pantone colour printed as a solid ink.

Printers do have available ‘pantone to process’ conversion books showing the pantone solid colour alongside its process equivalent. We strongly recommend that you view these to gain an understanding of how the final result will look.

I have printed out a proof on our internal colour laser printer, will it look the same when printed on a machine?

No, the result can often be quite different. Most PCs use RGB (Red, Gren and Blue). Printing machines on the other hand use CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) when printing full colour work.

The pre-press department would need to convert your file to CMYK. The result of a file printed on laser printers can vary from machine to machine and can even differ in the same office using laser printers of an identical make.

Can a metallic ink be printed out of a 4-colour process?

No. Gold, silver and Bronze need to be printed as a solid colour.

I want a shiny, metallic effect. How can I achieve that?

On a brochure, the metallic pantone ink needs to be printed on a gloss material or laminated using a high gloss finish. Alternatively, a foil blocking process can be used whereby a metallic foil is stamped on to a sheet which creates a nice premium finish.

Talk to the specialists in print

These Q&As are given purely as a guide to assist you with any questions you may have when it comes to colour printing. We specialise in print and know first-hand how frustrating it can be when the end result isn’t what was expected.

That’s why we’re here to help.

Please call us on 0113 2100 055 or email us [email protected] if you need any further advice or would like to discuss our printing services.

We’d love to talk!

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