Spot color

We offer Pantone spot color printing for letterheads and other business stationery such as business cards and compliment slips. Learn how to set up spot colors in your print files below.

What are spot color inks?

While for most print jobs CMYK is enough, some jobs are better suited to using a ‘spot color’. Spot colors are printed using a single, pre-mixed ink color, rather than a combination of the four basic colors in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and key) printing.

This makes spot color ink printing ideal for consistency, particularly on those important elements like logos.

It also allows for printers to use inks that cannot be made using the traditional CMYK process, such as fluorescent colors or metallic tones.

When picking a spot color, be sure to decide whether you want to use the coated or uncoated versions, and consider what kind of paper you are having your work finished on.

Booklet with spot colour ink on the cover

Make sure you know exactly what you are looking at by sourcing a color chart from a company like Pantone. If you are using spot color information from a third party, make sure you use the right number to ensure that the printer uses the right type of ink for your print job.

Creating a spot color in your design app

There are different ways to create a spot color depending on which design program you are using. We will outline the methods for creating spot color in several of the most popular design applications.

Variety of colour charts

Create a spot color in Adobe InDesign

In Adobe InDesign you can create a new spot color by selecting ‘New Color Swatch’ in the Swatches panel menu. In the palette, select the drop down menu (which defaults to saying ‘Process Color’) and you will be confronted with a long list of various spot color styles from which you can choose. Select the one you need and then select your chosen color.

This will then create a Spot Color swatch in your Swatches palette, which you can then use in your artwork. Notice it has a different color icon compared to the process colors.

To ensure your spot color prints properly, it is best to make sure it is not overprinting a color below it, as this could lead to show-through. When creating your artwork, select any objects containing a spot color and open the Attributes panel (which can be found under Window > Output). Make sure the Overprint Fill checkbox is NOT selected and this will ‘knock out’ the colors below the spot and print straight on to the paper below.

Adobe InDesign user interface

Use spot colors in Adobe Illustrator

If you are using Adobe Illustrator to create your artwork, then creating a Spot Color is the same in principle as InDesign, but a little bit trickier to find.

Go to the Swatches Panel and select Open Swatch Library from the menu in the top right corner.

Select the option for Color Book. In there you will find your list of spot color providers. This will then bring up a new swatch palette containing all the relevant spot colors for that color system and you can drag and drop them into your artwork.

You can import Illustrator artwork containing spot colors into InDesign and the spot color will automatically be added to your document’s color palette. This is great if you want them to be there, but if you don’t then be sure to get rid of them before outputting your files.

Adobe Illustrator user interface

Spot colors in Adobe Photoshop

Spot colors in Adobe Photoshop work slightly differently since the program does not primarily use vectors to create artwork. However, you can still use spot colors and you can even create feathers and gradients using a spot color in Photoshop.

To add a spot color to your artwork you need to add a new channel that replicates the 5th plate in the printing process. It’s a bit like adding an alpha channel.

In the channels palette select New Spot Channel and it will create a new layer for your artwork. If you color elements of this layer in using a black, white or grey brush, then it will apply the specific spot color to your image. This means you can either paint into the channel using one of the many tools, or copy and paste greyscale images into the layer to get more textured effects.

Adobe Photoshop user interface

How many spot colors can I use?

Please note, Mixam can only print one spot color per print job, so choose carefully.

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