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Process Colors

Process colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) are the 4 colors used. These 4 colors can combine to create virtually an unlimited array of tones and colors. Most of the magazines, brochures and direct mail pieces that you may have seen or received, would more than likely have been printed using this process, especially photographic images. In reality, offset inks are mostly translucent, reflecting off the paper they are printed on.


Pantone Colors

Pantone colors is the industry norm for selecting spot colors to be printed. These colors may come pre-mixed or can be easily mixed using the formulas provided. Pantone colors would normally be used in their purest form when printing 1, 2 or 3 color projects. These inks are also translucent and reflect off the paper they are printed on. However, many times you may select Pantone colors for your project and in the end print your document in the 4 color process. This of course presents another issue, since Pantone colors are meant to print as is in their true form, when printed in the four color process, the color tone may shift, either lighted, brightened, deepen or even become dull. You should be aware of your selection of Pantone colors when printing them using the 4 color process. Pantone colors that are metallics or florescent cannot be reproduced as 4 color process and must be printed in their purest form.


Coated vs Uncoated Paper Stock

Coated paper stocks have a finishing on the surface whether high gloss or matte, this coating allows the ink to sit on the surface of the paper. When ink sits on the surface, the colors would appear to be brighter. Coated paper stocks come in different weights, from the 24lb. text weight through the 160lb. cover weight.


Uncoated paper stocks also come in the various weights mentioned, but the biggest difference is in the effect on the ink. Uncoated paper stocks will tend to absorb the ink, creating mostly a dull color effect. This is fine if your project requires such. In fact, most company stationary, business cards and memo pads are printed on uncoated stocks. There is nothing wrong with using uncoated paper stocks, just keep in mind that colors will not appear as bright.


Specialty Papers Papers that may be recycled, have a particular grain or texture, or may be tinted can also be used in printing. However, just keep in mind that such paper stocks come at a premium depending on the manufacturer and quality. Also, ink color may not print exactly as the color expected, since most inks used in the offset process are translucent in nature and they will reflect the paper tone and texture.



This is not the ancient ritual of blood letting, rather, it refers to when ink prints right to the edge on any side of the project’s trim area. The prefered amount of bleed is 1/8″ (.125) past the trim area.


Crop Marks / Trim Marks

These are marks that appear on all four corners of the document to indicate where we need to cut or trim the document as they establish the final size of the project. These marks should never meet or intersect each other.



This is the process by which ink is raised on paper stock. The printed job passes under a device which sprays a very light translucent powder onto the paper which adheres to the wet ink. Then it goes unto a conveyer belt which quickly runs the paper under hot coils to bake the coated ink. The intense heat makes the ink rise from the surface giving your project that raised feeling.