What do color processes have to do with your packaging, and why should you care? Color for packaging is influenced by two main processes that will have an affect your packaging’s quality, consistency and cost. The subject of color printing is vast and complicated. But I will try to generalize and simplify in an attempt to keep things relevant to you and your packaging needs.
First, let me name the two main types of color processes.
1. The first type of color process is referred to by any of the following names (and probably a few more, but these are the main ones I’ve heard on a regular basis)
PMS (Pantone Matching System) COLOR
PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM
These are pre-mixed ink formulas or “recipes” developed by the Pantone Company. It is the industry standard. Below is a swatch booklet of PMS Colors from Pantone.
4 COLOR PROCESS
4 COLOR BUILDS
4C PROCESS CMYK
The four colors that are used are C (cyan), M (magenta), Y (yellow), and K (black). The 4 color process uses very tiny dots when it prints as opposed to a solid bed of ink used by the PMS color method.
So, when your artwork is being designed in Adobe Illustrator, or InDesign, or some other graphics program, there are options for the graphic designer to choose to use CMYK color which is the 4 color process, or PMS colors which are chosen from a color palette. Your graphic designer should be fully aware of this.
Now for the important bit. When deciding what type of color to use for printing on your packaging, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Does my packaging artwork use less than 4 colors? (remember black counts as a color too)
If you only require 3 colors or less, then use PMS colors, it is often cheaper.
2. Does my packaging artwork have full-color photographic images?
If so, you’ll need the 4 color process. It will yield much better results.
3. Does my packaging artwork require accurate color consistency from printing job to printing job?
If yes, then you’ll need PMS colors. This type of color is great if you need color consistency from job to job or printer to printer. So basically, no matter where you get your packaging printed, or by whom, the color should always look the same. This is essential if product branding is important to you, i.e. your company logo.
4. Does my artwork contain very tiny type or ultra thin lines (0.5 line weight or less)?
If yes, then PMS color works better. Because the 4 color process uses dots to create lines, they can appear jagged when very small.
5. Does my packaging artwork contain metallic or fluorescent colors?
If yes, PMS colors are a must. The 4 color process will not be able to achieve these colors convincingly.
– Yield more vibrant and brighter colors
– Great for color consistency
– Usually cheaper if you use less than 4 colors
– Great for tiny type and ultra thin lines
– Ideal for metallic or fluorescent colors
4 COLOR PROCESS:
– A must if your packaging artwork contains full-color photographic images
– Great if you are using a ton of colors because once you decide to use the 4 color process for your packaging, the amount of colors you can use is practically unlimited
If you are using PMS colors, try using different “tints” of the same color.
For example if you are using one of the many types of red offered by PMS colors and you want to add some pink somewhere in the artwork, instead of choosing a pink PMS color, opt for a “tint” of the red you are already using.
In other words, in the graphic design program you are using for your packaging artwork, lower the opacity of the red to, say, 50% to create pink. That way, when your packaging is made at the factory, that “pink” color will not be considered an additional color. It will only be considered as a “tint” or “shade” of a color you are already paying for. The less colors you use, the less expensive, in most cases.
Packaging color is an important part of the printing process and one that should be understood, as if affects price and quality.