Colors for Print: Matching and Separating

Working with colors is par for the course for a printer or print designer. In my first post, I’ve put together some basic tips on working well with color.

Matching Colors

Designing something new for a customer, and they ask you to match the color(s) of an existing document? There is more to it than you might think.

Simply scanning the customer’s original and attaching it to the order does not ensure that the resulting design will match the original. This is because color changes happen during the scanning and printing process

  • Open either MS Word or Publisher and draw a box on the page (Insert > Shapes).
  • Now go to Drawing Tools > Shape Fill and choose More Fill Colors. This will bring up the color chart. Find a color that’s an approximate match. Let’s say the color you’re trying to match is closest to color 21 (a blue), but it’s not quite right.
  • If you click on the custom tab, you’ll be able to see the color values.
  • The RGB color values for color 21 are 0R/102G/255B. By adjusting these values, you can create a variety of different colors and make specific adjustments to get closer to the one you want to match.

An important thing to keep in mind is if the original color was printed on an offset press, it may not be possible to match it exactly, but using this method will get you as close as possible. Once you arrive at a color you want, just give us the color values and we’ll use them in the design.

Color Separation for Print: BeforeSeparating Colors

You may run across a third party printer that asks for color-separated artwork for a print job. What is color separation, you ask? Read on . . .

Simply put, color separation is used to make plates for offset printing. Each printed color requires a separate plate, but colors can also be derived by combining colors from different plates. In four-color process printing, four separate plates are used: cyan, magenta, yellow and black—CMYK (K is used to denote black).

Photographic images can be printed using the four-color process: the colors of the photo just have to be split or separated into the four colors. Of course you can also separate simple designs, and the fewer the number of color plates needed, the lower your printing cost will be. If you’re printing a business card that has black text and a blue logo, it will require two color plates. You can also use tints of a color to make the design more interesting. For example, if you have a design that has red in it, you can use a 50% tint to make a lighter red (50% lighter) without increasing your printing costs. In the example on the right, the gray fur of the rabbit and the light blue oval behind it are both tints.

Color Separation for Print: AfterNotice that the separated artwork shows the areas that will be colored as black and the areas that are tints are shades of gray. These are the way the files have to be set-up for making the printer’s plates. Once the plates are made the colors are achieved by using the proper ink color as each plate is being printed. In the case of the example above, the ink colors would be black plus two spot colors: process blue and PMS 185 red.

These simple tips can help you use colors effectively in your designs. What other tips do you have that I may have missed?

About Jon Zerndt
Jon Zerndt is the account manager for the office superstore and quick printer accounts at Affinity Express, and loves to spend time providing guidance and solving problems for clients.

3 Responses to Colors for Print: Matching and Separating

  1. Very nice content. I will take note of your tips. Separation and matching of colors can really help in creating effective designs. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jon Zerndt says:

      Thanks for the kind comments Kerby. It’s good to know the Tips were helpful to you and hopefully they’ll be helpful to our others Blog readers too.

      – Jon

  2. I think use of matching colors is very important in an printing whether it is flyers, booklets, catalogs, or magazines. Especially, you need to pay attention to the brand, potential audience, and brand image everything in your design.

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