Ink Colors Explained

Ink colors can seem complicated—a set of cryptic codes that determine your final color result. The color consistency these codes support is important to reinforce your brand and coordinate matching collateral. Let’s take a look at how ink works in the “black box” that is a modern commercial printer.

CMYK / Full-Color Printing / 4-Color Printing
CMYK is easily the most popular color printing model, providing a wide range of color in a small machine footprint. In CMYK, four ink colors are combined to create a final color. Cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black (K) are each housed in their own cartridge. Using a process called halftoning or screening, tiny dot patterns of each component color are mixed on a printing plate and then transferred to paper. The tiny dot patterns, made from the four inks, determine the color we perceive at regular magnification.

Spot Color / Solid Ink
For short runs and promotional products, spot color can be the best tool. A combination of 14 base colors are mixed according to Pantone’s formula (Pantone Matching System, or PMS) to achieve the final color. Pure spot colors are crisper than CMYK’s dots, and some very bright colors aren’t possible in CMYK.

Choosing and Converting Colors
The Pantone Process Color Guide has Pantone Color Charts that provide the “recipes” for PMS ink colors. Keep in mind that different media and coating/finishing options affect the final appearance of printed color, so different recipes are needed for each in order to get the same side-by-side printed result. The Pantone Bridge Guide also provides recipes; it is a dual ink chart used to match PMS color with CMYK color. The Bridge Guide provides side-by-side comparison of PMS formulas and their CMYK equivalents.

Color is power: it commands attention, provides emotion, and reinforces your brand. With the right combination of ink colors and media, your final result will truly shine. Contact Infomax Office Systems to maximize the impact of color for your company.

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