I'm totally newbie in printing production and now I need to print something that requires high color correction (be as close as possible to the colors on design file). So what color palette should i send to the printer: CMYK or Pantone? If Pantone is considered as "standard" in matching colors so why people don't design in pantone but still in cmyk? Thank you!

  • Depends on the specific design and print process in question. Could be either of the options that the mention, could be neither of them. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. – Westside Mar 1 '18 at 16:18
  • Thank you. Could you give me an example about when the use of pantone /cmyk is preferred? – nguyen ha my Mar 1 '18 at 16:27
  • Photographic work will tend to be CMYK, while linework with just a few colours will usually be Pantone, but it’s much, MUCH more complicated than that. Too complicated for this question and answer format. Try researching ‘print colour management’. – Westside Mar 1 '18 at 16:56

Pantone is a company that created various colour matching systems for the printing industry, There are Pantone colours that are CMYK (process colours), and there are Pantone colours that are spot colours made from mixed inks. So, your question doesn't really make sense. I assume you actually mean Pantone Spot colours

CMYK printing uses four colours of ink (cyan, magenta, yellow and black), sometimes also called full colour process printing, and it requires four printing plates, and often a printing press with four colour heads, or perhaps even two passes through a two colour press.

If you add a Pantone spot colour, and also want full colour process printing on the same sheet (for printing photographic images for example) - that would be five colour printing, and that would be more expensive. It would require an additional print head, or an additional pass through the press, and an additional plate, etc.

Pantone spot colours are often used in printing commercial stationery, for example when you have a logo that is only one/two colours, and when process printing is not required. Printing in only two colours is often cheaper than printing in process colours. Spot colours also look better than process colours up close (see illustration below). This is especially true for small logos, or small coloured text, or line art.

Spot colours look quite different from process colours. Essentially, spot colours are made of solid ink, which is mixed by the printer to a formula guide, whereas CMYK colours are made up of different coloured halftone dots. So it's really a different printing process.

TLDR: Whether you choose CMYK or spot colours would depend on what the client wants, and what their budget is, and the kind of printing required. It's also possible to have both CMYK and spot colours.

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  • Thank you. In this case, I have to print a company stationery which is 2 colors. If I give printers CMYK/Pantone color, I'd get the same result everywhere? Another question: Pantone color space is bigger than CMYK, but when I look up the Pantone CMYK Uncoated swatch in Adobe Illustrator, I can't find the color that I need but with CMYK, I can create it. Why? If my printing has more than 2 colors, I don't need to use Pantone, right? – nguyen ha my Mar 2 '18 at 2:54
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    @nguyenhamy You can have as many Pantone spot colours as you want. The issue is the cost. Yes, there are Pantone spot colours without a good CMYK equivalent. If you give your printer the Pantone numbers, yes they should be the same everywhere. CMYK to Pantone spot conversion, and vice versa, is not exact. The colours in the books are close but not perfect. – Billy Kerr Mar 2 '18 at 8:37

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