Working with Spot Colors

Working with Spot Colors

Spot colors, also called custom colors, are used to exactly match a particular color — for instance a lapis blue corporate logo or a book title in silver metallic letters for a book cover. No way could you exactly match that lapis blue with a mixture of CMYK inks, and you certainly couldn’t create metallics from those inks. (By the way, CMYK inks are also referred to as process color. You may hear your commercial printer refer to them this way.)

That’s when you need to turn to custom colors created by companies such as Pantone, TRUMATCH, TOYO, and DIC. These custom colors are used in addition to (or instead of) the standard CMYK inks. Spot colors are selected by using a printed swatch book that you can buy at the better art supply stores or directly from the ink manufacturer. When you select a spot color in Photoshop, the color that you see is only an approximation. Spot colors must be selected from printed swatch books.

Each spot color needs its own plate on the printing press. (If you plan to include a varnish for your project, the varnish is also considered a spot color and needs a separate plate.) Spot color information is saved in Photoshop in its own channel. When you want to export the spot color channels, you need to save the image file in Photoshop DCS 2.0 or Photoshop PDF format.

Adding a spot color to your image

Selections are used to create spot color channels. A spot color channel can contain any shape or type that you can create in Photoshop. This example uses type to create a spot color channel. Here’s how:

  1. Open the image to which you want to add the spot color channel.

  2. Make sure white is selected as the Foreground color.

    Using white for the type creation makes it easier to see how the spot color affects the type later.

  3. Select the Horizontal Type Tool and add type to the image.

    When you add type to an image, the type is automatically placed on a type layer, as shown in Figure. You can add any special effects, such as drop shadows, glows, or bevels, to the type by using Layer Styles. (Take a look at Technique 20 to find out more about Layer Styles.)

    Click To expand
    Figure: Type is automatically placed on its own type layer.

  4. When the type is shaped to your satisfaction, Ctrl+click/z +click the type layer in the Layers palette.

    This creates a selection around the type.

  5. In the Channels palette, choose New Spot Channel from the palette menu, as shown in Figure.

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    Figure: Choose New Spot Channel from the Channels palette menu.

    Use the New Spot Channel dialog box shown in Figure to select a spot color.

    Click To expand
    Figure: The New Spot Channel dialog box is used to select a spot color.

  6. In the Ink Characteristics area, click the square next to Color.

    The Color Picker opens, showing CMYK process color combinations.

  7. Click Custom in the Color Picker.

    The Color Picker changes to show custom spot colors. (See Figure.)

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    Figure: Use the Color Picker to select an ink manufacturer and ink type.

  8. Use the Book drop-down list to select the color-matching system that you’re using.

  9. Click a spot color in the Swatch area at the left of the Color Picker.

  10. Click OK to close the Color Picker and return to the New Spot Channel dialog box.

    The name of the spot color that you selected, such as Pantone 2727C, appears in the Name text box.

  11. Enter a percentage in the Solidity text box.

    Your commercial printer should be able to give you this information. This setting is used only to simulate on-screen how the printed spot color will look. It doesn’t affect how the spot color is actually printed. A setting of 100 percent makes the ink completely opaque, covering up any ink below it. Typically, if I don’t have any information from the printer, I leave this setting at 0 percent. That way, I can see the selected color and any shading or bevels added to the type.

  12. Click OK.

    The spot color channel appears in the Channels palette named after the spot color that you selected in Step 9. (See Figure.)

    Figure: The spot color channel appears in the Channels palette.

Saving spot color separations

You may not need to save your spot color as sepa-rations. Many commercial printers can handle Photoshop’s PSD files and are happy to accept them. But, if you find that you need to save spot color as separations, here’s how:

  1. Press Ctrl+S/z +S to save your image.

  2. Choose File>Save As.

    The Save As dialog box opens, as shown in Figure.

    Click To expand
    Figure: Use the Save As dialog box to save a copy of the image in DCS 2.0 or PDF format.

  3. Enter a name for the image in the File Name (Windows) or Save As (Mac) text box.

  4. Use the Format drop-down list to choose either Photoshop DCS 2.0 or Photoshop PDF.

  5. Select the Spot Colors check box.

  6. Click Save.

    The Save As dialog box closes and the DCS 2.0 Format or PDF Options dialog box opens. (See Figure.)

    Click To expand
    Figure: Use the DCS 2.0 Format dialog box to set how the image and spot color channels are saved.

  7. Choose the settings based on the dialog box that you’re using:

    If you’re using the PDF Options dialog box: Set the JPEG Encoding to Maximum.

    If you’re using the DCS 2.0 dialog box: Use the Preview drop-down list to choose TIFF 8 Bits/Pixel; use the DCS drop-down list to select Multiple File with Color Composite. (Check with your commercial printer about this setting.) Select Binary from the Encoding drop-down list.

  8. Click OK.

    The image and spot color channels are saved in either DCS 2.0 or PDF format.

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