Color in Graphics

Spot Color - CMYK - RGB - Hex: What Does It all Mean?

SPOT COLOR - For Printing

Spot color printing refers to how ink is applied during screen printing. A finished screen is very similar to a cut paper stencil - in that there is a "hole" created to paint or push ink through to print your image. Ink colors are mixed individually for each screen.

spot color example

Designs are created with shapes, lines, and points in a vector program like Adobe Illustrator. After a file is created, screens are made for each color in the design to be printed.

A screen is just that: a very fine screen pulled tight on an aluminum frame.
Parts of the screen are blocked out with emulsion, leaving an opening in which ink can go through - just like a stencil.

One ink color is chosen for each screen. The image on the screen is 100% open or 100% closed. The ink only goes where the screen is open.

This means that the final graphics file will be 100% black (where the image will be open) and 100% white (where the image will be closed). Greyscale or halftone images require automated equipment.

See more about how Screenprinting is done HERE.

CMYK - For Printing

cmyk color separation example

CMYK stands for: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (K).

These four ink colors are printed using a very fine dot matrix. The amount of dots per inch affect the resolution of the image. This is also referred to as dpi.

This is also called 4-color Process Printing. This way of printing is used on most printed items such as magazines, posters, and all sorts of packaging.

This type of printing allows for full color images, and shading - unlike spot color printing.

cmyk registration mark

You may have seen this registration symbol on printed items. It is a printing tool to help show that all the colors line up properly. If not registered properly, the colors will not line up.

RGB and HEX Codes - For Monitors

RGB and CMYK are two different color spaces. While CMYK is used for printing purposes, RGB is used for anything shown on a monitor. RGB stands for the primary colors of light - Red, Green, and Blue. Televisions, scanners, digital cameras and monitors all use this color space.

rgb vs cmyk

Hex codes are assigned to specific RGB colors with hexadecimal values. The format of a hexidecimal color is: #RRGGBB. Hexidecimal intergers range from 00 to FF to specify each color intensity.

This gives absolute color exactness when working on digital graphics.

Any image that will be printed will need to be changed from RGB to CMYK or Spot color images before printing. This does affect color - bright colors on a screen cannot be translated to print due to the lack of light source.