I'm working on a design and in the rules it says this:

When designing/prepping final files, please be aware that there is a 6 color limitation on secondary and a 6 color limit on primary. Please also don't overlap colors since printing is butt-fit with .003 stay aways.

I tried reaching out to the person in charge (not a designer) and the only thing they told me was that only 6 colors could be used. This is probably a dumb question but how can I use 6 primary colors if there are only 3 (red, yellow, blue)? Also, what are the 6 secondary colors? Does this just mean that I can use any 6 colors I want (and possibly create more shades using halftones)?

  • 2
    A 6 color limitation is not the same as "6 primary colors".
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 2:32
  • This may not mean what you think it means. They probably mean that you may only use 6 colors and 6 accents in designing to reduce human memory footprint. Since most desitns are lower than this its a lot.
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 4:17
  • If you substitute "plates" or "print heads" or "inks" for "colours" it might begin to make more sense.
    – Stan
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 15:27

2 Answers 2


In your previous question, you say it's about printing labels for beverage cans. These are usually printed in a single run on flat color ink printing machines, there are from 4, 6 and 8 colors. The six inks reference is maybe by the impression system used:

enter image description here

Read more here

About the six secondary colors it could be a second print run on the already printed cans.

This is another link with info about 8-color tinplate printing for can making/metal packaging.


This doesn't make much sense. It only makes some sense if you are working with direct spot inks for, let's say silk printing, and they are referring to something like that.

6 colors could be used

Red, Yellow, and Blue are not primary colors. The primary colors are Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow.

RYB is an archaic color model (It is still used in some artist circles and for teaching kids). Since a more modern understanding of color is available, that model has been updated to CMY-RGB one.

You need to clarify this with the person in charge.

  • I'll try to reach out again and clarify. This is for a beverage label in case that helps any. Thanks for the information.
    – Desi
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 1:48
  • Red, Yellow, and Blue are primary pigment colours. There are different kinds of primaries depending on the application. CMY primaries were designated and are specified for a colour reproduction print process. (That's why they're called process colour primaries.) Red, Green, and Blue are primaries generally used for mixing light in a colour display. There are no "archaic" colour models in the true sense of the word.
    – Stan
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 15:23
  • Any color can be "primary" if those are the materials you have. Ocre and black, can be. Of course it is easier for a painter to use Red pigments instead of using magenta and Yellow. But the understanding of a color wheel is more mature than that. RGB are Light primary colors and CMY are Pigment ones.
    – Rafael
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 19:57

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