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Full Colour CMYK Print Process Explained

Printing in Colour

Lithographic and digital printing offers two basic alternatives :-

  1. Full Colour
  2. Spot Colour(s)

Full colour is a term which means inidivdual colours are achieved by blending four primary colours (Cyan, Magenta, yellow and black) and is sometimes referred to as CMYK or full colour process. This combination of four colours can produce millions of individual tones and it's therefore possible to reproduce a huge range of colours. The only drawback is that the actual colours produced can vary quite a bit between jobs and different printers due to no standardised ink mixing system.  

Despite the small variations in colour reproduction full colour or CMYK printing is now pretty much the norm for 80% of the products we print. However hitting exact colours everytime and anywhere is still only achieved by using spot colours using the pantone standardised system. The spot colour method is a process mostly now used in reproducing corporate id on stationery and other branded material where the maintenance of corporate identity is paramount.   

The above product is a typical CMYK printed piece.


If you have a specific colour or colours to print you’ll need spot colour printing :-

Spot Colours – Are inks mixed to a calibrated and standardised specification to produce a specific colour (pantone). An organisation called Pantone has established the range of specific colours for this process and all printers hold their colour swatch books. Spot colours are typically used for corporate id products and stationery where the company has a specific branding and graphics control policy. 


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