Spot colour

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

What are spot colour inks?

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

This makes spot colour 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 colours or metallic tones.

When picking a spot colour, 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 colour chart from a company like Pantone. If you are using spot colour 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 colour in your design app

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

Variety of colour charts

Create a spot colour in Adobe InDesign

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

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

To ensure your spot colour prints properly, it is best to make sure it is not overprinting a colour below it, as this could lead to show-through. When creating your artwork, select any objects containing a spot colour 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 colours below the spot and print straight on to the paper below.

Adobe InDesign user interface

Use spot colours in Adobe Illustrator

If you are using Adobe Illustrator to create your artwork, then creating a Spot Colour 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 Colour Book. In there you will find your list of spot colour providers. This will then bring up a new swatch palette containing all the relevant spot colours for that colour system and you can drag and drop them into your artwork.

You can import Illustrator artwork containing spot colours into InDesign and the spot colour will automatically be added to your document’s colour 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 colours in Adobe Photoshop

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

To add a spot colour 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 colour elements of this layer in using a black, white or grey brush, then it will apply the specific spot colour 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 colours can I use?

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

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