A print project begins with an idea. An image in your head, maybe a list of words on a dry erase board, or a sketch on a notepad. But what comes next? Could be a variety of things (including contacting yours truly, Metropolitan Press, your go-to North Texas printing company!), but most likely one of your top 5 next steps will involve color.

Color Considerations

When you are designing your print project, before you get in too deep, consider: how you design a piece for print is not only distinct from a piece designed for online-only use; it may also need to be altered depending on what press it is printed by, what paper it is printed on, and if you are mailing it. So what does that have to do with color?

It all starts at the beginning: when designing for print, you must use CMYK colors and images. This ensures correct color expression and quality when printing. Yes, your computer screen will show you the RGB version of your colors, and no, what comes off the press will not match what you see on your screen. Even so, design with the end in mind – your CMYK design will be printed on a press using CMYK inks. Or, if you have a logo or color theme made up of two spot colors or Pantone numbers, it must be designed with those Pantone colors (which also need to be communicated to your Metropolitan representative – be sure to keep us in the know!). Do these terms sound like gibberish to you? Definitions below, just keep scrolling! print 101 color

You may have a specific Pantone or PMS color you use in your design, but when choosing your color, consider this: according to pantone.com, “CMYK process colors only match PMS 55% of the time.” Why does it matter? It may not – you’ve got a full color, gorgeous and bright design for your next newsletter, brochure, or invitation. What you want is a full color, gorgeous and bright printed piece off our presses. You’ve got it! When it comes to Pantone-specific colors, however, you may need to take more steps in your design and print process to ensure you arrive at your Pantone-specific destination. We are here to help you, every step of the way, as always!

Get out your decoder ring

CMYK vs. RGB, Pantone vs. CMYK, spot colors, PMS values, and of course soy-based, biodegradable, earth-friendly inks. There’s a lot to color besides, well… color. You’ve considered the things we’ve discussed above, but now it’s important to know your terms, and get what’s in your head and on your computer screen ready for the big-time. Our presses are ready for your project, but is your project ready to print?

How about we start with a mini-glossary, in case you need a refresher. This is a Print 101 article, after all.

Print 101 Vocabulary: Color

CMYK – Abbreviation for the four colors of ink that are used to create full color printed items: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. (Here’s your Jeopardy trivia for the day: K stands for key plate, though where it originated from has multiple theories. Was it so designated to prevent early printers from mixing up black and blue ink when loading? Or is it because the black plate in offset printing processes is key to making all the colors blend together for better contrast and detail? We may never know.)

RGB – The color process used on electrical devices, including computer screens and digital cameras; the abbreviation for Red, Green and Blue. Computer screens combine these three colors of light to produce all colors you see on your screen.

Pantone – A standardized color matching system, used across many industries worldwide – including the printing industry.

According to pantone.com:

In 1963, Pantone revolutionized the printing industry with the colorful PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM®, an innovative tool allowing for the faithful selection, articulation and reproduction of consistent, accurate color anywhere in the world. The tool organizes color standards through a proprietary numbering system and chip format, which have since become iconic to the Pantone brand. Pantone colors each have a number that corresponds to a specific shade.

PMS – Pantone Matching System. Used to specify a particular Pantone color, e.g. PMS 575

Spot Color – A solid color (mixed or pure) generated by ink applied in a single run

Why does paper matter?

You’ve got your abbreviations straightened out, your art is print-ready, on the press, but you come in for a press check, or you get your box of brand-new letterhead from the delivery driver, and… it’s not the right color. What happened?

Did you know, the exact same Pantone spot color will look slightly or even vastly different, depending on what paper it is printed on? It will look different when the ink is wet vs. when it’s dry. It’ll look different on a white or an off-white paper, and definitely white vs. gray paper. And it will even look different on a coated, or glossy paper vs. uncoated, or non-gloss paper.

Take, for instance, Pantone 259. A robust purple, which could be print 101 colordescribed as grape – perfect as an accent color for the flyer advertising next month’s PB&J sandwich making event for the homeless shelter, or those invitations to the wine tasting and silent auction your organization is hosting this fall. But when you decide to print the flyer on an uncoated, simple white paper, that vibrant grape comes out a little… flat. Faded, like the grapes have been out in the sun a little long. Why? It’s the color you chose, after all. But did you know, uncoated paper absorbs the ink differently than coated paper, paper that has a shiny finish? This results in a variation of color; even for a spot color, the exact same Pantone color on coated vs. uncoated paper will look vastly different.

There is good news! Not all Pantone colors have wide variations in their coated vs. uncoated versions. Not all presses print with the same process – offset presses and digital presses, which Metropolitan has a variety of both kinds, function in very different ways; for example, even uncoated paper may have a shine to it on our Konica Minolta digital press, because of the process by which ink is adhered to the paper.

Metropolitan has the help you need

How about more good news? Metropolitan Press is your full service printer, emphasis on service. Our customer service representatives and sales staff, our press operators and pre-press technicians, every member of our team has experience with and can help you address these issues for your print project. It may be as simple as consulting our Pantone booklet, checking out paper samples, or adding a press check to your process for a particular project. If it’s important to you, it’s important to us. We can address your color concerns, and help you get that special project from the image in your head to holding it in your hands.

Metropolitan Press: Your North Texas Printer

We’ve been in the printing business for over 20 years now, and provide professional graphic design, printing, mailing, and marketing services for commercial businesses and nonprofit organizations all over North Texas. We’ve got your printing needs – brochures, letterhead, envelopes, magazines, catalogs, invitations; mailing needs; marketing and promotional item needs – key chains, mugs, t-shirts, umbrellas, gift items – covered. Give us a call at 214-635-3131 or contact us through metpressinc.com. The Metropolitan Press team is here for you – in living color!