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I'm working on a logo where the client ask that I incorporate additional colors. I currently have a two color logo, orange and green, and they want the orange to transform into the red. This makes conceptual sense, because the logo is supposed to signify change, and red is one of the colors of the parent brand.

What considerations do I need to take when creating a multi-color logo? I already explained that it may cost more since it will be more than 2-colors, but then we usually have most things printed on a digital indigo press, so I'm assuming that won't cost any more correct?

Do I need to choose Pantone colors?

What about a gradient, red to orange? What considerations do I need to take for gradients in a logo?

Any advice from people who have experience with multi-color or gradient logos would be helpful. I feel like I may be overlooking possible issues.

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You don't really need to use Pantone colors, as most logos are done in CMYK and/or RGB.

Even those logos that do actually use Pantone colors, they also come in CMYK-only and RGB-only versions, because those designers know Pantone can be tricky to work with and generally more expensive to print.

However, if you print digitally, which is the more common form of printing, CMYK will be enough and Pantone is likely to create issues, depending on the machines being used and their specific setup.

CMYK gradients are totally fine, Pantone gradients can, again, be tricky: How to make a smooth PMS gradient transition in Illustrator

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  • Without getting too deep - the reason for Pantone is to control the colour for brand consistency bearing in mind print will be repeated over time and by different agencies. It provides a standard that professionals can work to. In addition, some colours simply do not print well in CMYK... orange for example. A colour like reflex blue is impossible in CMYK on a lithographic press (used by Yorkshire Bank). Pantone blends are the devils work and should be avoided. I've never used one in 20 years of brand work. If you must, stick to CMYK and the Indigo as litho wont represent the orange well. – Applefanboy Aug 21 at 11:41
  • I'm sorry, but that is horrible advice. CMYK and RGB are subject to so many variables when reproducing how do you establish the brand standard color? Designating a PMS color as a starting point gives a stable, repeatable target that anyone can reference in any process. – Alith7 Aug 26 at 19:07
  • @Alith7 you specify what standard rgb or cmyk space you mean, thats the Modern way of doing things. Panatone is actually just as bad as untagged cmyk/rgb because its a ink specification. If you want to be more specific then use spectral distributions. – joojaa Aug 27 at 3:59
  • I'm not sure how "horrible" the advice is. I have worked with over 100 different logos/identity packages. Most clients have no idea what Pantone is, and when faced with the pro's and con's, they really don't feel like they need it anyway. In my 15+ years experience, it is only the multinational-level, uber corporate-type clients who truly have a need to be very very consistent at that level where Pantone is really truly relevant. Plus alot of companies today in tech and digital, they never print anything, like, never, so they design their logos in RGB directly -- yes shocking, but a reality. – Lucian Aug 27 at 8:10
  • For a lot of modern do digital companies I would agree, however the OP asked specifically about using for printing purposes. – Alith7 Aug 27 at 10:38
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There are a couple things to consider when going with a gradient in a logo. But first, you should almost always use PMS numbers when designing a logo, preferably from the "Coated" palette for color accuracy. Even though there are multiple methods of reproducing the logo in hundreds of different formats, PMS is an internationally accepted standard that will give anyone in any industry printing in any process a stable, repeatable target for what you want to brand colors to be.

There are limitations to how close you can get to the actual PMS color depending on the method you are using it in, but you can work with those limitations depending on the application and how important matching brand standard is. It is also very common for a major brand to have designated CMYK and RGB values in their standards guidelines to make sure that the conversion to the other methods gets the best possible result.

*** ADDED

There is also the consideration of WHAT colors you are looking at. For example, a PMS 072 Orange is not reproducible in CMYK, so to hit that bright of an orange, the printer will have to use PMS colors.

To address the gradient concern, yes, a 2-PMS Gradient can be a very tricky thing. When you let Illustrator create the gradient, it start with 100% of Color A on one side, and 100% of Color B on the otherside, and gradual steps them down to a mid point. When you create this with CMYK or RGB swatches, it makes for a very nice, smooth conversion, but when using 2 PMS colors, the built in method ends up making this weird muddy color in the middle because it wants to fade each color from 100%-0% respectively. It's not exactly wrong, it just doesn't look good.

A lot of designers and printers avoid this because they don't know the fairly simple trick to fixing it. You overlay one color over the other. I generally do the lightest color as 100% for the entire shape, and let the darker color apply the gradient set to multiply or overprint (do NOT use both, it can have strange results) over the solid color. See Below.

gradients

I usually do this simple version more when one of the colors is black. If it's for two colors, I will modify it slightly so that you still fade both colors off to 0%, but the majority of the orange bar is at 100%, and I moved the 100% red away from the end so there is a small step that's solid. If you don't it will start stepping down the color immediately and you lose some of the brightness. Like this:

modified

The nice part is that even using the modified gradients, when you convert to CMYK, you usually keep the same brightness and look (although any color combination should always be tested). Like this:

Modified converted to CMYK

If you can post the rough shape and look you are going for, I can give you an idea of what gradients to use.

Finally, if your customer really wants the gradient, make sure that you have them develop a solid color version of the logo that they will be happy with for screen printing or vinyls or other processes that don't have an option to screen the color. Better to address this concern right away and provide them with a solution than to have to scramble to develop something they will like in a rush because the pen company needs the logo immediately.

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  • 2
    The last paragraph is important. There will always be a need for a single color/black only/white only version at some point. The logo must take this into account somehow. – Yorik Aug 26 at 21:05
  • You might want to add that if they choose a pms color they better have a color book. – joojaa Aug 28 at 5:08

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