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Colour When designing for

print it is extremely important to consider colour from the very beginning. The use of colour can make or break a piece of design and knowing how to use colour effectively and efficiently can produce accurate and consistent results. One thing that must always be considered is how many colours or plates are being used within a design, as you don’t want to

be using more than you actually need. Creating designs that are cost effective benefits both you as the designer and your clients.


Colour Modes The colour model

that you choose to design with is particularly important so that you create designs that are exactly how you wish them to look. CMYK colour mode (also known as process colour) refers to Cyan [C], Magenta [M], Yellow [Y] and Black [K]. These are inks used in all printing techniques from inkjet printers to professional scale

lithographic printers.

On the other hand,

there is RGB which is used solely in screen based design. RGB has a much wider range of colours than CMYK as it is based on light, and so can create much brighter and almost florescent colours that cannot be reproduced with process colours.


RGB light by Fabian Nehne & Martin Meier

RGB Colourspace Atlas by Tauba Auerbach

RGB The RGB colour

model is an additive colour model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colours. In additive colour models, white is the “additive” combination of all primary coloured lights, while the natural ‘blank canvas of RGB is black, which is the absence of light.

RGB is used purely in screen based design as it uses light rather than inks to produce the colour. This means that the RGB colour mode has a much wider array of colours including very bright colours and florescent. This is a digitally based colour mode that is used in screen based design such as web design and photography.


CMYK The CMYK colour

model (process colour, four colour) is a subtractive colour model, used in colour printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four inks used in some colour printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black).

The “K” in CMYK

stands for key because in fourcolor printing, cyan, magenta, and yellow

printing plates are carefully keyed, or aligned, with the key of the black key plate. The CMYK model works by partially or entirely masking colours on a lighter, usually white, background. The ink reduces the light that would otherwise be reflected. Such a model is called subtractive because inks “subtract” brightness from white.


Halftones With CMYK printing,

halftoning (also called screening) allows for less than full saturation of the primary colours. Tiny dots of each colour are printed in a pattern small enough that human beings perceive it to be a solid colour. Magenta printed with a 20% halftone, for example, produces a pink color, because the eye perceives the tiny magenta dots

on the large white paper as lighter and less saturated than the color of pure magenta ink.


Without halftoning,

the three primary process colours could be printed only as solid blocks of colour, and therefore could produce only seven colours: the three primaries themselves, plus three secondary colours produced by layering two of the primaries: cyan and yellow produce green, cyan and magenta produce

a purplish blue, yellow and magenta produce red (these subtractive secondary colours correspond roughly to the additive primary colors) plus layering all three of them resulting in black. With halftoning, a full continuous range of colors can be produced.


Identity for Studentblocket by Marcus Garde

Spot Colours Offset technicians

around the world use the term spot color to mean any color generated by a non-standard offset ink; such as metallic, fluorescent, spot varnish, or custom hand-mixed inks.

When making a

multi-color print with a spot color process, every spot color needs its own lithographic film. All the areas of the same spot color are printed using the

same film, hence, using the same lithographic plate. The dot gain, hence the screen angle and line frequency, of a spot color vary according to its intended purpose. Spot lamination and UV coatings are sometimes referred to as ‘spot colors’, as they share the characteristics of requiring a separate lithographic film and print run.


Pantone Colour System The company is best known for its Pantone Matching System, a proprietary colour space used in a variety of industries, primarily printing. The Pantone Colour Matching System is largely a standardized colour reproduction system. By standardizing the colours, different manufacturers in different locations can all refer to the Pantone system to make sure colours

match without direct contact with one another. One such use is standardizing colours in the CMYK process. A majority of the world’s printed material is produced using the CMYK process, and there is a special subset of Pantone colours that can be reproduced using CMYK. Those that are possible to simulate through the CMYK process are labeled as such within the company’s guides.


Tints Tints are opacities of a particular colour, allowing you to use a single colour plate with different tints, rather than 10 different plates making it a much cheaper alternative. The single colour plate applies colour in varying opacities, giving lighter and darker tints of a single colour. This can make it look as if more than one colour is used within a print

and give the print more depth and tone. Tints range from 100% of the colour down to 10% which gives a full range of tones to create an image with.








Format Format is the paper

size conventions for paper, which is very important to know when designing for print. There is much more to paper sizes than the standard A sizes that we are all familiar with and knowing about the hundreds of different formats is very import when designing for a particular product or publication.


A Series The international paper size standard, ISO 216 is the most commonly used paper sizing series used, especially within the UK. The main advantage of using the A series is that the system allows scaling without compromising the aspect ratio of square root on two, from one size to another. For example an A4 page can be

folded to create an A5 booklet without compromising any margins.


B Series Paper sizes in the B series are a half, a quarter or further fractions of a metre wide. While less common in office use, it is used for a variety of special situations. Many posters use B-series paper or a close approximation, such as 50 cm x 70 cm; B5 is a relatively common choice for books. The B series is also used for envelopes

and passports. The B-series is widely used in the printing industry to describe both paper sizes and printing press sizes.


C Series The C series is almost only used for envelopes and is defined in ISO 269. The area of C series sheets is the geometric mean of the areas of the A and B series sheets of the same number; for instance, the area of a C4 sheet is the geometric mean of the areas of an A4 sheet and a B4 sheet. This means that C4 is slightly larger than A4,

and B4 slightly larger than C4. The practical usage of this is that a letter written on A4 paper fits inside a C4 envelope, and C4 paper fits inside a B4 envelope.


North American Variants The current standard paper sizes used within North America, Canada and Mexico are based on traditional inch based ‘loose� paper sizes. These are by far most commonly used in everyday North America, as well as in countries such as Bolivia and Chile.


Newspaper Sizes Within the UK there are two main sizes of newspaper, tabloid and broadsheet. A tabloid newspaper is smaller and more compact than a broadsheet, and although there is no standard size to be called a tabloid newspaper, they are typically around 280mm x 430mm. Broadsheet newspapers are larger than tabloid newspapers, but do not have a standard

size and are usually associated with a higher standard or journalism than a tabloid newspaper. There is also another format that is used widely throughout europe called the Berliner, which is slightly larger than a tabloid and slightly smaller than a broadsheet. Its size is 315mm x 470mm.








Processes and Finishes Printing is a collective term for describing the putting of into onto stock. This can be done in many different ways, and each technique has its own distinct variables such as speed, cost, range of colour, texture and capacity. With each process and finish, the stock used need to be taken into consideration, as some processes and finishes will work well on one stock, but not so well on another. Throughout the design process, the end result must always be taken into consideration. 34

Marbling Marbling is a fairly simple technique that creates interesting patterns on a page. This process uses inks that float on top of a tray of water. These inks can then be moved around on top of the water and then an absorbent stock is placed on top of the water that soaks up the ink. The results are always different and only uncoated, absorbent stocks can be used.


Binding Binding is the process of attaching more than one page together, such as in books, magazines and leaflets. This is probably the most important finishing process when it comes to creating a successful publication that functions in the proper way. The function of the publication needs to be taken into careful consideration when choosing how to bind a publication.


Spiral Binding Spiral binding uses metal or plastic spiral that is fed through holes cut into the edge of the pages. This spiral is fed from the top to the bottom of the pages to bind many pages together and is a fairly secure way of keeping the pages together.


Perfect Binding Perfect binding is the most common way of binding magazines and many soft cover books. The pages are formed into a block making sure that all the edges are completely straight and aligned. An adhesive is then applied to the spine and the cover is wrapped around. This is a very cheap and secure way of binding a publication.


Saddle Stitch Saddle stitch binding is very straight forward and simple way of binding pages together. It uses strong thread or wire to stitch along the spine of a publication in a single line. However this can only be used for smaller publications, as the more pages there are, the weaker the stitch will be.


Folding Folding is a very simple and cheap way of binding a publication. This uses just one page of any size, which is then folded and/or cut to create small booklets or leaflets. This can be done in many different ways each with varying quality and strength.


Coptic Binding Coptic binding uses sections of folded pages that are sewn together, linked together with chain stitch linkings across the spine. This is a traditional way of binding larger amounts of pages and can be made with or without a hard cover.


Lithographic (Offset) Lithographic printing is where separations are exposed onto separate metal plates and are transferred (offset) via a rubber blanket to the stock. The metal plates print layers of CMYK and spot colours to build up the design. It is high speed and high volume and so it appropriate for larger runs of prints that are consistent in quality. using lithography you can print any number of inks, but the more plates you use, the more expensive your print will be.


Digital Print Digital print is the most recent development in the printing process. It can be done straight from the computer and does not require much human interaction such as preparing inks and plates. Digital printing it not often used for mass production due to the time it takes to print and it would not be cost effective. There are two types of digital printer, inkjet and laser. These both print using the CMYK colour mode, but apply inks in very different ways. Inkjet printers use wet inks and apply these in varying amounts over the page, whereas laser printers use toner that is applied to the paper with a process using static electricity. There are many limits to using digital printing, mainly with the size of stock that you can use and the weights and type of stock that you can print on using a digital printer.


Silkscreen Printing Silkscreen printing is a very traditional method of printing that is most often used for creating a short run of prints. A silkscreen has a very fine mesh that ink can be pushed through using a squeegee. A design can be exposed onto a silkscreen using a UV sensitive ink, that hardens when exposed to UV light. This design can then be printed in any number of colours on almost any stock, giving many different uses for this type of process.


Letterpress Letterpress was the first type of commercial printing, most commonly used with individual metal letters. It is a form of relief printing, where the letters are arranged as needed and ink is applied. This is then pressed against a stock and the print is produced. This is a very time consuming process, especially when using a large amount of text and the print is not always consistent.


Lino Cut Lino cut is a low volume type of relief print, where a design is cut out of a piece of lino and is then printed onto stock. This is a very time consuming process and you must always consider how the print will look after it is printed, as it will be the reverse of the cut. No two lino prints look the same, which can either add or detract from a design, but a benefit of lino print is that the actual lino can last for years, so a print can be recreated at any time.


Foil Blocking Foil blocking uses colour foils to print upon a design, using heat to ‘glue’ the foil onto a stock. Traditionally this would be applied using a thin layer of glue, placing the foil shiny side up on top of the desired area and the applying extreme heat, but in more recent years it has been done using a laser printer and a laminator that can reach very high heats. However, using the laminator technique can only do small designs and gives a varying quality result.


Embossing and Debossing An emboss or deboss is a design that is stamped into a stock to create a raised or recessed impression, sometimes with the addition of inks or foils. Embossing and debossing can give a print more depth and texture, creating more interest in the piece of design. This is created using a die, with added heat and/or pressure to create the indentation in the stock.


Laser Cut Laser Cutting simply means using a laser to cut materials. A laser can cut through almost any material apart from metals, and gives a number of different finishes such as cut through, engrave, kiss cut and raster. A design is put into special software on the computer that tells the laser cutting machine exactly what to do, and as long as the machine is set up correctly it gives consistent results.








Stock is the base material on which you print. It can be a huge number of things, ranging from a standard sheet of white paper, to more unusual materials such as wood, metal, plastic and fabric. Designing for print is about


how it will look and feel after it has been printed, and so choosing the correct stock is incredibly important. Careful consideration has to be taken into the stocks ability to take the printed design, its ability to be folded and manipulated in the way in which you need it to and many other considerations that are specific to a design.


The weight of a stock, most commonly in paper, is measured in gsm which means grams per square metre. The higher the gsm, the thicker the stock. Standard office paper is 80

Weights gsm, cartridge paper is around 120-180 gsm and watercolour paper is 300 gsm.





Paper types refer to the type of stocks that are available and the different classifications and uses of each stock. A very basic way of differentiating between stocks is whether they are coated or

uncoated stocks. All paper begin life being uncoated in the base preparation and manufacture of the stock. These stocks tend to feel

Paper Types and Finishes much rougher and inks can be absorbed into the stock when printed upon. Coated stocks have a small layer of white clay or clay and caulk filler material that smooth over the surface of the stock. This means that inks printed upon a coated stock will not sink into, but sit on top of the coating.



Newsprint is made from wood pulp and is very inexpensive to use. However it has a short life span as it can tear easily and cannot hold a

lot of ink.

Uncoated Wood free

Nearly all office paper is within this category as it is very strong and has a non-glare surface suitable for reading and writing.

Art Paper

A high quality paper with clay filler to give a consistent surface. Colours are very bright and it is often glossy.



CastCoated Paper

Grey Board

Produced using wood pulp, mechanical paper is useful for short term uses as its colour will fade and yellow. Sunlight and temperature can also change the quality of the paper and ink. Cast-Coated paper has a high gloss finish, achieved by applying heat using a chrome plating cylinder.

Lined or unlined stock usually made from waste paper. This usually has quite a bit of texture to it.


Matt Paper


Matt paper has a texture to its surface, meaning that less light can be reflected off of it giving a duller finish to the print. This can be coated or uncoated. This is similar to matt paper in that it does not reflect much light off the surface, but it does reflect more than matt paper, meaning that the image quality and readability is high.


Almost any material can be used for print, however you must carefully consider any type of stock so that it is appropriate to the design, otherwise it can

detract from the design rather than add to it.

Unusual Stocks Wood

Wood is used a lot in signage and branding as a stock and can be drawn upon, painted, laser cut and many other things.



Metal is also used a lot in signage, but is also used when making object or sculptures.


Fabric can be used for a huge number of things from clothing to signs and banners. It is hugely versatile and there is a huge range of fabrics to choose from when designing for print.


Plastics such as acrylic come in a huge range of colours and thicknesses that can be used for books, business cards and signage to name a few.


One of the most important things to consider when choosing a coloured stock is the effect the colour will have on the inks you are printing with, particularly when printing on uncoated stock. Inks can sink into

the stock or can let some of the stocks colour show through and so changes the look of the colour of your print. This is easy to avoid or manage by

Colour and Stock simply testing out your stock and designs before going to the final print.








Final Design For Print Content.  

Full content pages for Design for Print brief.