Spot Colour and Pantone in Print

After investing in your brand identity and selecting the colours to reflect your business, it is important to ensure your creative team deliver guidelines to ensure the brand is accurately reflected through all online and offline media.

This is particularly important with colour. There are several ways in which colour is displayed on various media, all of which use a mixed selection of colours. Computer screens use Red, Green & Blue (RGB) to show colours, whilst professional printers use Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black (CMYK). This can result in a colour printing differently to how it looks like on a computer screen.

Spot Colour Pantone Printing

Changes in the colour become more complex when you take into consideration the material they are printed onto and the printing method used to deliver the colour mix. The information below should help you understand a bit more about the terms Spot Colour and Pantone and when to use this mode of print.


Pantone is an extensive range of pre-mixed colours, that each have unique reference code. Pantone colours include those that cannot be printed using CYMK, such as metallic gold and silver or neon yellows and orange. The Pantone reference code ensures that the exact same colour is produced every time and provides an industry guide for comparison.

Spot Colour Printing

The term ‘spot colour’ is used to refer to a single colour (often a Pantone) that is created from a non-standard ink (i.e. not a mix of CMYK) and is printed on its own as an individual colour.

When to use Spot Colour

• On Screen Printed Products – such as lanyards, balloons, pens, bags and other merchandise. This is our most requested use for spot colour. Predominately these products are produced using one or two colours and include just a company logo, where colour accuracy is important.

• For Metallic or Fluorescent colours – metallic and neon inks cannot be produced through CMYK or RGB printing. These colours are reflective, shiny and eye-catching and can really add something special to a campaign.

• When Colour Matching is Essential – e.g. for company logos.

Full colour digital and lithographic printing of company literatures and stationery has become more cost-effective over the years and the colour is accuracy more reliable. So it is a rarer requirement to use spot colours for these items. However, if you do have a Pantone reference, always send it to your printer who can compare your finished item with a Pantone colour chart to ensure the colours match.

Spot Colour Production

Only screen printers and lithographic press printers are able to print using spot colours, as the colours are delivered using a printing plate, which distributes the unique colour.

The additional costs associated with spot colour production occur because the whole machine has to be cleaned down before and after the spot colour is added. This ensures there is no colour contamination, but it does increase the production times and therefore the cost compared to standard CMYK printing, where four channels are always set up with the four same colours.

Most clients require a mix of large format, digital, litho and screen production methods to deliver their brand. So it is advised that graphic designers select a pantone colour that is made from CMYK to deliver a consistent production and reduce costs.

We always recommend that you order all the branded items you require at the same time to get the best value for your print by saving on setup costs.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss a spot colour printing project or if you are interested in receiving a sample to show how effective the use of Spot Colour can be.

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