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I'm looking for a color that doesn't match anything in my Pantone color book.

I don't see that Pantone sells any books with a wider spectrum of colors.

Is there a way to match this color with a Pantone color or another type of spot color or am I stuck with this limited-spectrum Pantone color book?

Can't be CMYK or any other type of color model.

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Asigning a spot color on a document has the purpose that anyone in a system can identify and apply a specific color on your printed project.

But if you have control on this process and you know what are you doing you can brake some rules.

For example, In my opinion the formula guide lacks of a pretty red. The closest to a c0m100Y100k0 red are warm red and the 032 red but they are too orange for my taste.

So I can simply asign a 032 red on my file, elaborate the plates and in the printing facility I ask a modification of the color.

This modifications can be done either "by hand" for small projects on site, or you can ask for a specific formula and you get lets say 10kg of ink that you can store for the rest of the year for a big project.

Formula means you have the proportions of the base colors. 10 parts of "banana yellow" plus 3 parts of "cherry red".

If you have this recipy you can make another 10kg for another day.

You can also record the raw color values with a spectometer to asure the same color betwen diferent lots.

I have played with this process playing with some metalic colors.


By hand I mean for example, the P116c is a yellow with a bit of warm red (97%-3%)

If I want to keep the same base inks, the next yellow is P1235c (90.6%-9.4%).

But the diference is too broad. If I want a color in between I can try lets say starting with the 116 and adding a bit more of warm red (95%-5% for example).

If you are making lets say 1kg of ink you can simply mesure the parts. 950g of one and 50g of the other.

Sometimes you need to prepare just a small amount of ink (half a cup of coffe) For example when adding black just the tip of a pencil can make a very large diference. So you add it and mix it. Add more if needed.

As the inks are transparent, it is difficult to judge the printed color. A print specialist can play with a drop of ink and smudge it on a paper to "match" the printed color.

So when I say by hand... literaly is by hand.

  • Interesting. May I ask how you do this "by hand"? What type of setup do you need to do this? – Justin Vajko May 15 '15 at 13:26
  • I added an explanation on the "by hand" part. Remember this modifications are with the phisical ink. You just use a similar pantone color on your digital file. – Rafael May 15 '15 at 18:59
  • Super. Any advice for how to work with a print specialist when ours is 3.5 hours away? :) Basically, is there a way to test inks without using a printer and their equipment? – Justin Vajko May 16 '15 at 19:39
  • Remember what is the point of this. If you have control. If you can not be next to the specialist making descitions this wont work. Then you should work with a pantone guide, so you don't need to see anyone. You can send the job to another continent and the colors will be the same. – Rafael May 17 '15 at 6:22
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Pantone books show the colors of ink Pantone sells. You can't just "make up" a color and designate it as a Pantone color. If you can't find the color in any Pantone Books, Pantone doesn't make that color of ink.

You can designate any color as a spot color within applications, however the point of systems like the Pantone system is that everyone sees the same color based on a number. If you just make up a color and designate it as a spot color, there's no way for anyone in production to know what exact color you are trying to achieve or how to mix inks to get to that color.

In addition, Pantone books aren't based on a standard "spectrum". A color present in the Pantone+ Formula guide may not be present in the Pantone Goe Formula Guide, or vice versa. There's no real "range" or "spectrum" used since by nature spot colors are specific mixtures of specific ink colors. The books kind of resemble a spectrum guide because that's the easiest way to find colors, but they aren't "spectrums".

There are other spot color vendors . . . Toyo, Focoltone

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You can print any spot color you want. Not all spot colors have names, as you've discovered.

In your files, a spot color simply tells the printer that "this is another color that we need to make a separate plate for". What ink goes on that plate can be anything.

So if you have a custom color in mind, find a sample of it, take it to the printer, and they can try and match it for you on press.

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One approach is to print a grid of sample colors varying around that target spot color, find the closest match, then generate another grid around that match with a smaller range of variation, and repeat this process to narrow down to a RGB value that's as close as desired ( or possible ) to the desired spot color value.

You just need to know the RGB/CMYK/LAB values of the target spot color. It is tedious.

An app to help with this process is https://spotcolormatch.com, which I worked on. As a printer, I needed a way to do match spot colors easily on my printer and this process was fairly easy to use. Plus I could also give customers a print of the sample grid and let them pick the closest match.

  • That link appears to make a grid of RGB colors--which has nothing to do with printing spot colors. – DA01 Jul 16 '15 at 4:41

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