Colour Mixing and Types

Technology certainly is a wonderful thing. Today, all that’s needed is to bring in a favourite cushion, throw or other object to a paint shop, and they can scan it to recreate that exact shade. And you may be surprised to know that when a particular colour is needed for your inkjet labels, the process is basically the same.

Spot Colour

The printing industry uses two types of colour: spot and process colour. Spot colour is the process of matching colour by mixing ink. This can be done by scanning a particular item, by eye or by using Pantone colours, which is a standard worldwide colour system used by several industries. Printers use the Pantone guide both to match colours and mix inks according to the instructions that Pantone provides. Once the colour has been identified, it must then be transferred to a lithographic press for printing.

Your label printing company will use a different Pantone guide depending on the material being printed on. Glossy labels will require a different recipe of ink mixture than matte labels will, for example, due to the different ink absorption rates of each.

Spot colour can also be combined with process colour where a particular custom colour is being used. For example, a company’s brochure can be printed in process or full colour, and the specific colour of their logo printed with the spot colour process.

Process Colour

Process colour is a general term that refers to the combining of millions of individual colours to create the particular colours of an image, and then printing those colours as dots of ink in various sizes. A common example of process or full colour is in your local newspaper, where all of the images are printed in this style. Process colour combines cyan, magenta, yellow and black (or CYMK) from their individual colour sources. The inks are then printed on a four-process machine, which has a roller for each colour. This way, only one pass of the rollers is needed to transfer colour to the materials.

Although process colour is great for excellent colour quality, those needing more specific colours may get more benefit from the spot colour process. For example, if you require metallic ink, the full colour process wouldn’t be able to accomplish this.

Determine your Desired colour Accuracy

Many wonder which process to choose. After all, they each have their benefits. For example, spot colour is a terrific process where large quantities need to be printed, as it is low cost and fast. Process colours, as stated before do have a high degree of accuracy. And technology has come a long way, allowing business owners to choose process colour printing throughout without having to require spot colour.


Although there shouldn’t be any issues when choosing Pantone colours, there is likely to be some variation in colour saturation when printing on different materials like letterheads and business cards, depending on the card’s finish. However, the finish isn’t the only consideration; different paper types will also differ in colour, although this may not be noticeable to the naked eye. However, differently-coloured paper will display colour differently.

CYMK or process colour printing can have its own issues. For example, colours printed using the spot process will look different than those printed in process colour. As well, some colours will be more problematic than others, one example being Pantone orange, which can appear brown when printed using CYMK.

If printing several types of items (such as brochures, business cards and letterhead), it’s important to choose a single process for all, as combining processes can result in greatly mismatched stationery.