I'm printing some banners and business cards with variations on a single design (banners coming from two different places, cards from a third place). The design has some very light grays in it: 4% 7% and 15% K.

For the banners it's possible for me to add a spot colour. So I am wondering, is there a better chance of the light grays showing up properly if I:

A: Set all the greys to be tints of Pantone Black.

B: Set all the grays to be tints of say, Cool Gray 3.

C: Set the very lightest gray (4%K) to be Cool Gray 1 at 100%. And keep the other grays (7% and 15%) as process tints.

D: Stick with the process black tints.


I'm designing the banners in Illustrator. The material is fabric for one and vinyl for the others. Unfortunately I think its too late to get physical proofs made.

Thanks very much,


  • Under practically all circumstances, a spot color will yield the best and most consistent result -- especially for such a light color. There is an option E: use 100% Cool Gray 1 plus some black for the darker tints. (Possibly hard to get right, though.)
    – Jongware
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 23:41
  • Thanks, Jongware. Yeah, this is what I have been considering but I would be worried about the difference between the spot and the black tints. I might just go with the black tints but make them all a little darker.
    – Conor
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 1:25
  • 1
    Tints less than 10% are problematic to print. Matching colours on different materials is problematic. Matching colours on different finishes is problematic. You are creating the perfect storm for failure. Speak to your service providers for best practices to avoid sources of variability. The alternative is the finished job being refused and nobody gets paid.
    – Stan
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 1:07
  • How is the job being printed? Digitally? If so, then choosing a spot colour is pointless.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 7:59

3 Answers 3


If it's just black (k) there will be virtually no difference -- a tint is a tint.

A 7% tint of black is equal to a 7% tint of [insert any Pantone color here]. Using spot colors does not improve a screen's ability to filter ink.

The only difference would be the color of ink being tinted, but the tints will be the same quality.

If you want to remove the tints, then yes, laying down a solid grey spot color, without any tint, will result in a better appearance than any tint will provide.

  • Scott some tints may have the possibility of being marginally better than others tough so a 50% tint of something with the right screen is better than 13% of some other color. but +1 anyway that's the general gist of it.
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 7:22
  • Yeah, I wasn't comparing different percentages. Naturally it's easier to maintain a 50% screen than it is to maintain a 7% screen. Still, color has nothing to do with that.
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 7:34

If you are to create a light grey using CMYK, then use a percentage of (K) black with a % of (C) Cyan. You always want to use Cyan as opposed to Magenta because colour fluctuation of magenta is obvious. All good offset and digital commercial printers use cyan.

Don't just use K, you'll find it's particularly inconsistent, grainy and streaky especially when printing digitally.

  • Hello Ash, welcome to GDSE and thanks for your answer. If you have any questions, please see the help center or ping one of us in chat once your reputation is sufficient (20). Keep contributing and enjoy the site! Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 13:16

Use a PMS cool gray and get 100% point to point to prevent open raster since a percentage of black will do that. But if you want that, go that way.

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