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Colors in Advertising and PrintingBy: Avinash Narula
Colors are an important element of any design. A dash of color adds life to any design. So one of the most important decisions that you will have to make while developing advertising and promotional material is what colours to use as well as the number of colors you would want to use in the design. This decision is important in terms of creative, image of the company and the available budget.
Now, at the very outset, let us understand the characteristics colors as they relate to the designing and printing of advertising and promotional material. There is a difference in how we think of colours in our daily life and how we think of colours while developing advertising and promotional material. Let us make mention of the four primary processing colors that go on to weave magic, creating just about any color when two or more such colors are mixed. More commonly known as CMYK, they are:
C - Cyan
What’s spectacular about these four colors is that virtually any color can be reproduced from a combination of these CMYK colours. As for instance, we tend to get green when we combine a certain amount of yellow with a certain amount of cyan, the proportions varying according to the particular shade of green required.
Mixing these four primary colors can present an array of different colors for you. So how do you get a new color? If you want to get red, all you have to do is to mix 100 percent magenta with 100 percent yellow. And presto! Your desired color will be there. And if you want a slight variation in red, just vary the percentage of the two primary colors. Further if you need a slightly darker red or maroon, just add a bit of black to the combination of yellow and magenta and you will get the color of your choice. Remember those good old days when you used to dabble with watercolors as a child? You sure will. Now try to recall that some colors were ready to use standard colors and some were made by your own creative imagination, mixing two or more colors together. However, in the case of printing and designing, all you can do is mix any two or more of the primary colors to make any color of your choice.
These CMYK or primary colors as they are also known, however have to face some roadblocks when it comes to the creation of ornamental colors such as gold, silver and bronze. These colors are therefore called special colors, and have to be printed separately too. I prefer to call these ornamental colors “pure special colors” as they cannot be made using the four primary colors. These colors fall on the expensive side too. So if you want to print advertising and promotional material with these pure special colors, think twice before doing so, for it will shoot up your budget.
Let me substantiate this point by giving you an example. Suppose we want to print a red colored logo on a white paper. There are two possible ways of doing this. Firstly we could prepare a single color separation and print with an already mixed red color, that is, artificial special colour. The second option would be through the color separation method. Red is a mixture of magenta and yellow. In this case, we would have to make positives for the two primary colors, one for magenta and the other for yellow. The printing process, in this case will first print magenta and then yellow to finally produce the color that is being sought.
Why do we need to know about all this? Well, because this could help you avoid spilling your money. Printing the above job using red as an artificial special color may cost you less as compared to the color separation route. When printing red as an artificial special color, you will have to make only one positive as well as print only once. However, if we went about doing the color processing, we will have to make two positives and two plates, that is, one each for magenta and yellow color. In addition, we have to print twice, both for yellow and magenta color. The cost would naturally spiral up because of the additional positive, plate as well as an additional print run on the printing press.
One, two, three, four Colour Printing
Sometimes people fail to understand what one, two, three or four color printing means. They relate to this in terms of literally counting the number of colors in the print job. This is not true. Let us try to understand what one, two, three or four color printing is all about.
1. One color printing
In one color printing, there is no such hard and fuss rule that the black color that is being used has to be 100 percent jet black. It could be 99 percent black, 98 percent black till 1 percent black. Though these shades of grey or screens of black may look like different colors to a lay person, but from the point of view of printing, it is considered one color. What this means is that I can print 100 different shades of black/grey by using different percentage screens of black and it would still be called one color printing. When you are printing a photograph of a person in black and white, you are using different screens of black to get the effect even though it is one color printing.
2. Two Color printing
Most people make the mistake of thinking that in a two color printing, one can see only two colors…this is but as false as a mirage! Actually, to a layman a two colour design can look as if its a four colour design because of the variety of different colours that can be generated by using just two primary colours. You can generate a number of different colors as explained above and the printed work can look quite colorful too. Plus also it comes with the advantage of being less expensive.
3. Three Color printing
I think it might be useful to add another color to the above combination of red and yellow color. Let us add the color black to the above mentioned combination. As mentioned above, we generated the following different colours when we used two colours:
(a) Yellow and its different shades
We will be able to generate additional colors apart from the above when we add black as follows:
(a) Black and its different shades.
One additional color printing will generate a tremendous number of different colors on the paper.
4. Four color printing
(a) Cyan and it different shades
Literally a galaxy of different colors are generated. The number of different colours generated are numerous.
While printing, each color is printed as tiny dots. Because they are so small, the eye visually mixes all the colors to reproduce all the different colors that we see. The color separation process separates the design into one or more of the four primary colors through different color filters. After color separation, positives are made for each of the primary colors. The positive images are combined in the printing process to produce full color images. Black is usually the last color to be printed.
5. More than 4 color printing
How to specify colours?
However, with the increasing use of computers increasingly colours are being specified in terms of CMYK combination. For instance, if you want your logo to be printed in the same colour anywhere in the world, all you need to do is specify the CMYK combination. While designing advertising and promotional material, the designer will incorporate the CMYK combination in the logo design. We use a specific blue and red colour in our logo. The CMYK combination of blue is M=80, C=100 and that of red colour is C=100, Y=100. By specifying these CMYK combinations we can avoid variations in the colour of our logo irrespective of where it is printed. Knowing the color combination makes the work much more easier as you simply have to tell the designer to use the same while designing. Most companies either specify the CMYK composition of the colors of their logos or the PMS number.
With the advent of computers, our lives have undoubtedly become very easy. It is now possible for you to make different colors on the screen by mixing these four primary colors. You can experiment with different permutation and combination of the primary colors. Once the design is made, the electronic file is sent to the processing house for separation and making of the positives and proofing.
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