Want to know what makes spot color different? Learn the secrets behind spot color and Pantone before your next design project heads to the printer.

A spot color is a color created by the inks laid down in a single run in offset printing. This type of color for printing is best used when you have a lot of the same color, or if you need extreme precision in your printing.

Is Spot Color the Same as Pantone?

Spot color is not the same as Pantone, but it is a subset of it. For matching Pantone colors, it’s necessary to follow the spot color concept. Pantone colors and spot colors share a unique characteristic — they are meant to be precise. Using a printer that combines CMYK won’t work for a lot of Pantone colors. Though there is a subset of Pantone colors that can be matched to CMYK colors, the vast majority are unique and require the spot color system for printing.

Understanding the Use and Application of Spot Color — Spot Color vs Pantone
Image via Dja65.

Do Manufacturers Have to Follow Spot Color?

Yes. Pantone is so strict about their precision that they require ink manufacturers with Pantone licenses to submit annual samples of eighteen basic Pantone colors for approval. They are only allowed to order colors once they have successfully been approved.

What is the Purpose of Spot Color?

Consistency in a brand is very important to organizations, as this is how customers identify their products. The purpose of spot color is to allow designers and manufacturers to guarantee that a particular color will be a particular shade. This is critical for operations like branding, or any time you need to print a specific color in a large print run. The last thing a manufacturer wants is a large print that unintentionally changes shades of red halfway through.

Understanding the Use and Application of Spot Color — The Purpose of Spot Color
Image via Dmitry Nikolaev.

What is the Difference Between Spot and Process Color?

Spot colors are colors that are created in a single run of offset printing. They are very specific colors that the designer needs to be the exact color. There is little room for error with spot colors.

Understanding the Use and Application of Spot Color — Spot vs Process Color
Logo via iamguru.

In contrast, process colors are a combination of four different colors used during printing. Typically, process color is called CMYK. CMYK is a four-color process of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Four different screen tints are created, one for each color. Small dots are applied to each screen tint, according to how they should combine to form a single color per dot, which is resolved by the printer. Once that is successful, each color overprints the next to form the colored image. The combination of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black can yield virtually any color distinguishable by the naked eye.

Cover image via sarkelin.

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