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Most of your jobs are probably going to print using the process colors, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. If you're printing photographs, they do a fabulous job. But there's a limit to the range of colors that can be rendered in CMYK. For example, bright oranges tend to go to sort of brownie, tan, and navy blues tend to become sort of purplish and desaturated. You've probably seen the same effect on your in-house inkjet printer. So what do you do if you have your heart set on a navy blue or a bright orange or any of the other colors that fall outside the range of CMYK? Well, then you use spot colors.
And a spot color is a can of ink that is that color. If you want to print my favorite orange PANTONE 21, you open up a can of that ink, and it's orange all the way through. Now, some considerations when you use spot inks, some inks require special handling, for example, metallics tend to scuff a little bit, so if you're using a metallic in a piece that's going to be printed or mailed, it's going to be handled a lot, you might want to invest in putting a clear coating on the job. That's going to cost a little extra, using the spot color is going to cost a little extra, but it means you get the color that you have your heart set on.
Now, the word PANTONE and the word spot color, those tend to be used sort of interchangeably. But what is PANTONE, it's an ink reference publishing company. So they print books like this. You probably have one on your desk. And there are a number of different ones. PANTONE doesn't necessarily mean spot, there are some PANTONE guides that are just process. But this is my favorite, it's the PANTONE COLOR BRIDGE, and they're very expensive. If you're going to buy one PANTONE reference book, I highly recommend that you buy the COLOR BRIDGE. Now, this is the new version, the new ink system that PANTONE is referencing, and it's called the PANTONE PLUS System.
If you have Illustrator CS6, InDesign CS6, they've moved to PANTONE PLUS as well. Now, if you have an old reference book, don't throw it away, it's still valuable, those reference numbers still mean something to printers. But what I love about the COLOR BRIDGE is that you can compare a spot color and its closest CMYK equivalent, and this can really help you decide, gee is it close enough, maybe we will just run it and process? But if it's not close enough, if you have your heart set on that color, then you know which spot color to specify to the printer, you know which spot color to use when you're creating your artwork, and also in the future when you have a CMYK job, you have a great reference here.
All the CMYK equivalents give you the CMYK values, so this is sort of a 2-for-1, that's why I say if you're going to buy one PANTONE book, make it the COLOR BRIDGE. So when you're planning your job, have a conversation with your printer, tell him the colors you have your heart set on, see what it's going to cost to add the spot color and any possible clear coating that you might need to sort of protect those colors. And the idea here is that you plan ahead, and that way you have everything you want on your job, it looks the way you expect, and you're going to love that piece when it flies out of the press.
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