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Blending Colors for Better Prints

(October/November 2016) posted on Thu Nov 03, 2016

Mixing hues to save a screen sounds like a great idea, but it's not as simple as kindergarten art class.


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By Thomas Trimingham

To most printers, the idea of blending colors means the process of using two colors to make an additional one. Let’s say a job includes a yellow screen and a blue one, and the design also has areas that are green. The printer can use the yellow and blue to create the green areas and save an additional screen. But this only works when the colors are the right hues to begin with. If you tried to attempt such a blend with a yellow gold and a deep royal blue, then you would likely end up with a brownish, olive green that wouldn’t be appealing. To determine how to properly blend colors, the key is to print some overlapping hues that combine with each other so you can actually see what you will get in the final print.

The purest sense of blending colors and the widest possible results are achieved through four-color process, where cyan, magenta, yellow, and black are printed as small dots in close proximity. When viewed from a distance, the dots combine visually to create the illusion of a complete array of colors. Not every printer wants all of the challenges of process color printing, however, and that’s because every small issue in production will typically show up in the final print.



There is a way you can use your inks to blend colors that doesn’t cause as many headaches as process color. Through this technique, you’ll utilize the natural blending properties of the inks in tandem with some bump colors to create the more difficult-to-control hues. This means that you will create the easy-to-make blends by combining your base colors (yellows, reds, blues, and black) and then add screens to create any colors that may be out of gamut or close to impossible to get without a ton of testing of inks, screens, and production methods.

Before you dive in, a word of caution about blending inks to make extra colors: The better control you have of dot gain and ink flow, the better your chances of success. So before we go on, it would be useful to look more closely at these issues.


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