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How to Use Color and Ink in Commercial Printing?

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Whether you want to print a single profile or complex design elements for your commercial printing needs, you certainly want your printed files to look sharp. Therefore, it becomes necessary to know the science behind the use of colors and ink in commercial printing.




This guide will provide you an overview of how to use colors and ink to produce the best-looking commercial prints for every project.

Colors in Commercial Printing

Colors are the most valuable tools of designers. So, knowing about the combinations to produce the most attractive colors is important. Let’s know about different colors here to get a better idea about the things in this regard:

RGB Color

The RGB system refers to the colors that are being used in digital applications such as Red, Green, and Blue. This light energy-based model is called an additive model. The highest strength of these three colors will produce white while no light will lead to black color.

Overall, this color space will let you build designs effectively.

CMYK VS. RGB: What’s the difference?

Well, CMYK is a pigmented-based subtractive model. CMYK printing is based on a palette of four colors i.e., cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. These colors will mix to remove white light and produce the images we see on screen. 


CMYK VS. RGB                                                                                                Image Source: 


  • These four colors are used in different percentages to produce a wide range of colors.
  • With a magnifying glass, you can see halftone dots that collectively are making the artwork.
  • The number of colors far surpassing you can see will create a number of unique colors with these four-color pigments. However, colors in the RGB palette can’t be created with CMYK.

A gamut describes the tonal and color range a specific device can produce while the colors that can’t be produced by the device are known to be out of gamut.

What are spot colors?

Spot colors are pre-mixed inks that can be used to create printed items. These colors are specified with a universal reference system such as Panton for ensured accuracy across multiple printing jobs.Spot Colors                                                                                                 Image Source:


  • Lithography for spot color printing produces improved coverage.
  • Spot colors can produce more consistent and 

denser printing results, which are especially notable

in large areas of any single color.

  • Spot colors aren’t effective for full-coverage imagery.

For that, a combo of CMYK and spot colors can offer

better results.

  • Spot colors used in printing can increase printing costs

as these are the most reliable solution to create 

color results with a consistent appearance

  • The major limitation in spot colors is its number of available 

colors. It offers 1677 colors which seem restrictive as compared 

to thousands of CMYK color combinations.

Understand color management and workflow

Everyone wants to get printed color results similar to what it looks like on-screen. But, this is difficult because digital screen colors can’t be printed exactly. Similarly, some printing colors can’t be displayed on screens as well.

Even though perfection is almost impossible, consistency can be achieved here for better results with good color management.

However, a careful and effective workflow is necessary as well to reproduce full artwork and color images accurately. Because a workflow can help in maintaining the best colors transition from the environment to an environment in the complete production process

Overall, effective color management with proven workflow and color calibration is essential to create consistency in the printing work.

What is color calibration?

This technique can guarantee adherence to a known color standard set. This set can offer a common code for every device to reference with proper tones’ distribution from black to white. Same code reference can allow color representation translation to occur seamlessly between devices.

Color calibration is the first step of your color workflow. You can make the biggest editing decisions via your monitors. Without color calibration, it would be difficult to get a reliable outcome.

How to choose a color space for your images?

For most glorious and full-color range images, people usually prefer RGB color space. To work with any image in grayscale, you should keep your image in RGB until you are working on it actively.

Benefits of RGB color range

  • Flexibility to produce print pieces with the same profile
  • Keeping image data intact with enhanced RGB color gamut
  • Access to all adjustment layers and filters while editing

Main Options

  • The ProPhoto RGB color space
  • The sRGB color space
  • The Adobe RGB color space

When you send your artwork for printing, keep it in RGB, because any printer produces this content seamlessly. Even more, it can also get converted to the CMYK profile for offset printing.

If you required CMYK deliverables, then don’t forget to check the custom profile of CMYK output to see results.

Offset Printing

High volume printing jobs links with this printing type. In offset printing, the color of your artwork will be separated and burned into four plates that are in CMYK. Any of CMYL colors substitute Pantone colors. And for a special color, additional plates can be burned.

The imprinted plates will transfer artwork on rubber rolls, which will be spread via associated inks. The image takes place from the plate to a rubber blanket and then to your chosen paper stock. It requires this process to complete the printing of any artwork with offset printing.

Use of offset printing for:

  • Large quantities
  • A specific paper stock
  • Consistent and reliable image quality

Digital Printing

Digital printing is based on inkjet or toner technology and uses CMYK colors to create artwork. It can offer high-end output with 100 pages printed every minute.

Choose digital printing for:

  • A small printing job
  • Fast printing
  • Standard material and paper stock

You certainly gain a better idea about the colors and inks in commercial printing. So, make sure to get the most out of this knowledge whenever you are going to perform a business printing.

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