Special Color Requests

In the day-to-day world of commercial retouching, you'll often be asked to work with special colors. For instance, you might be asked to create an image with a company logo that uses a special color that is unavailable in the CMYK color spectrum.

Or you may be asked to make a four-color image usable in a three-color output scenario. In this tutorial, we'll cover working with special color scenarios outside the typical CMYK color space.

Pantone Matching System (PMS) or special colors are basically special ink colors that the CMYK color palette cannot generate. For instance, have you ever seen an image or a printed sample that contains a gold or silver? Or, say, a car in an ad appears to be unusually red? Ever seen a bright pink or green object in a fashion magazine? An image in which one item appears to be shellacked? All of these unusual colors and finishes require special ink.

Adding these special inks will require another printing plate, so in addition to the four standard CMYK plates on the printing press, a separate printing plate will be required for each special color or finish used. As you can imagine, it can get quite expensive to print additional special colors. Not only is there extra work needed to produce files with special colors in them, but the printing press will require extra time to wash and change the printing plates, particularly since you may be their only client using a particular special color. Press time can be very expensive. However, it is not unusual to have multiple special colors for some images, particularly for carton work and food packaging.