Spot Color VS. CMYK

Which is better? What is the difference? Can everything be printed both ways?

Answers to common questions can eliminate a lot of headache for you and the printer. See below for some tips on when to use what and why?

The definition of spot color from Wikipedia is: “any color generated by an ink (pure or mixed) that is printed using a single run.” Generally speaking, this method is used to reproduce solid blocks of color, and typically uses the Pantone Matching System (PMS Colors) to match specific imprint colors. A screen is produced for each imprint color that is needed, and they are run one spot at a time.

Watch this clip for an explanation of what Pantone means to so many industries and aspects of our everyday life:

What is Pantone?

On the other hand, CMYK refers to 4 colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key/Black) and 4 screens to produce full color images. This is also sometimes referred to as four-color process and is used in digital printing. Because this method uses only the specified colors to mix and create the image, exact PMS Colors cannot be matched, but will come as close as possible.

It is important to understand the difference in print methods to achieve the best results. If going for a specific PMS Color match for brand awareness, spot colors & screen-printing is the preferred method. If a detailed logo or image will be reproduced on sticky notes or membership cards, CMYK & digital printing is your best bet!

Artwork should be provided based on the method used as the spot colors will need to be layered in the file to provide ease of screen creation. If that last statement boggles your mind, grab a designer on staff or ask us to provide for you!

-Images from

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