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I'm setting up a process color offset printed letterhead and I have found thin 8pt (Acumin Pro Light) text--address line--set as a 4-color break (C38 M29 Y24 K5). Is it better to convert this to a tint of black (45%K) and deal with the resulting halftone screen or take my chances with misregistration and keep the 4-color break for the text? Please note that because of other color graphic elements on the letterhead it is more cost effective to print process vs spot.

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  • With such small text, I wouldn't recommend either. Print it solid black: 100%K. It will look greyish anyway. A tint of black, or a mix of CMYK will result in halftoned text, which will look fuzzy.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jan 28 at 20:00
  • Another problem would be that the screen for uncoated paper would be bigger so more fuzzy. In my opinion, that is a bad design choice.
    – Rafael
    Commented Jan 28 at 23:20

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In my world.. black/grey text that is built as 4C is always a, very strict, no-no.

Ideally, small black text is overprinted. So if there are any underlying colors you get a more rich appearance. But trying to maintain registration for 4C 8pt text that appears black/grey is a nightmare you do not want to pass on to any print provider. (4C grey is much, much, much, worse than a K grey)

Many print providers may actually kick back artwork if it has 8pt text built as 4C. In the printing industry, 8pt 4C type is a laughably unrealistic production expectation.

It's not always a great idea to screen type either (i.e. 45%k) but that's more dependent on the size of the type. I, personally, would never screen 8pt type - that's just asking for unnecessary complications. There's little to no benefit to screening type that small. Any screen for a tint is going to effect readability at 8pts. Nothing will look "sharp".

If you are concerned about maintaining some sort of "grey" for 8pt type, you really should be using a spot color so it can print at 100% without any screens - I know you posted you want to avoid the cost, but cost be damned if you want to maintain such a problematic appearance. Cost vs desired appearance, you have to choose... The increased cost may not be that much more and may be warranted for something like letterhead "shells", where you can do a long run. But if the identity contains this 8pt screen type.. it's going to be a problem for each and every collateral piece needing printing.

Rest assured, chances are if you send art to a print provider that contains 8pt 4C type, or screened 8pt type... if they miraculously don't kick the job back to you.. they will raise pricing due to it. If they don't raise pricing and just run the job as you've sent it, chance are quality is going to be hit or miss - much more often it'll be a miss (which is why quality print providers just kick such artwork back - they can't effectively ensure quality.)


Opinion: 8pt 45%k type is likely unnecessary. There would be no effective design difference if solid K 8pt type were used. The size of the type would do as much to reduce visual prominence as any screening. At 8pts, the type is probably not a major visual staple of any design. If necessary, I would rethink the design so any 8pt type is neither built as 4C nor screened. Or, be prepared to pay for a spot color whenever this type is needed with this color.

I'd also add that 8pt grey type is a "younger designers" thing... Once a person reaches 40-45 years of age... and natural human monocular degeneration starts setting in.... 8pt grey type becomes far more frustrating than informative. No clue what the age of any target audience may be.. but if it's anywhere close to 40, you need to rethink the use of tiny grey type in general.

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