When Colour Matters: Tips for Specifying Colours


You're designing a new brochure, flyer, or newsletter and want to make sure it looks great. You're considering printing it full-colour, but aren't sure if that's the best option to choose, considering your budgetary needs. Here are some tips to help you decide how many colours to use and how to make the most of the colours you choose.

When to use spot colours...

  • You only need one or two colours for the printed piece.
  • Your project doesn't include any full-colour photos.
  • Your corporate colours need to be reproduced to exact specifications and cannot be reproduced faithfully enough by combining cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK)... the four "process" colours.
  • Your project calls for fluorescent, metallic, or other special inks.


When to use process colour...


  • You need more than two colours.
  • Your piece includes full-colour photos.


When to use both...

  • You want to enhance the colours by including a "bump" plate (an extra printing plate set up in one of the four process colours and meant to enhance that tone).
  • Your project includes full-colour photos, but your logo or corporate colours don't reproduce well with process colour inks.
  • Your project includes full-colour photos and also requires metallic, fluorescent, or other special inks.

No matter what colour combination you choose, there are some things you can do to ensure your project goes more smoothly. For example, as you're preparing your artwork, make sure you aren't "duplicating" any colours. Look through the colour palette in your page layout software. Remove any duplicate colours you find, and reassign the corresponding objects and layers accordingly.

Also make sure you give your colours the same names in each application you use for the project. For example, make sure you give the colour the same name in InDesign as you give it in Photoshop and Illustrator. This will help reduce confusion and ensure the colours separate properly when preparing the piece for print.

And finally, if you decide to go with process printing, use your design software to convert any spot colours you have to their CMYK equivalents. When doing so, double-check the values the software assigns, to ensure good printability. For example, if Photoshop gives a colour a 1% magenta value, you might want to do some tweaking to eliminate the need for that value. We'll be happy to help you optimise your files for print and answer any questions you have while producing your files.