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3 November 2017 - Reading time: 3 minutes

What is the difference between 4-color printing and Pantone® printing?

Habefast Blog Article Differences Pantone 4 Color Printing

Although the digital age is predominant, paper-based printing still has a bright future. With more than 33,000 pages printed per second in Europe, it is necessary to look at color printing. Indeed, this is a crucial issue when you want to print documents. The use of color is important in particular to give your company a visual identity. Colors will be the first thing a potential customer will see and remember, which is why the quality of the colors on your flyers, business cards or company logo prints must be perfect. So, should you use four-color printing or Pantone®?

What are four-color printing and Pantone®?

These are the two main types of printing for color printing. Four-color printing is a method that consists of superimposing dots of the primary colors: black, cyan, magenta, yellow, which will give the result of a unified image. For this your image will be “screened” on a very small scale, i.e. the colors will be translated into a large number of dots more or less superimposed and spaced out. They may be visible on some magazines or newspapers. Commonly called CMYK, it juxtaposes the color dots according to the desired result. If you want pink, magenta dots will be spaced with white to give this result united to the eye. The size of the dots also has an impact on the final rendering. Black allows you to nuance the colors and to obtain grey. With all the possible color combinations, up to 16 million colors can be achieved.

Printing in Pantone® is a different method because there are not 4 colors, but 14 basic colors. Today there are more than 1100 Pantone® colors, which come from the Pantone® color chart, or “Pantonier”. The colors are mixed physically – not optically as in four-color printing. The pressman mixes the colors before printing, which results in a more faithful rendering. This technique offers you a wider range of colors. Each of them is referenced by a number, which does not change over the years. On the other hand, the Pantone® brand adds new colors as they are added.

How to choose?

Between these two methods, it can sometimes seem difficult to make a choice. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each method?

It is true that four-color printing is the most widely used and least expensive method. It is also the most convenient and quickest printing method. On the other hand, printing quality is not always guaranteed, as this technique sometimes changes certain color tones once the media is printed, especially when using bright or fluorescent colors. It is also difficult to read small characters in color or grey because the screen creates gaps.

Pantone® printing is more commonly used for packaging and products. Objects that may have bright or fluorescent colors will look more like you would expect from four-color printing. On the other hand, the use of certain metallic colors may give a luxurious effect to your print. To achieve the prints, you will have to choose between different printing ranges: Pantone® C (coated) for coated paper, U (uncoated) for uncoated paper and M (matted) for matt paper, depending on the final result you want. Even with Pantone®, there is a risk of a difference between the initial color and the final result. The price is an element not to be neglected, indeed this technique is more expensive because the list of colors is an intellectual property. It should also be noted that you cannot print in Pantone® in digital version. The use of Pantone® is often reserved for a very large number of copies (several thousand) or for monochrome prints (only one Pantone® color used).

It is therefore necessary to define in advance which rendering you wish to obtain and which colors you will use. Whether you choose your colors in CMYK or Pantone® at the origin, always anticipate their declinations (Pantone®, CMYK, RGB, hexadecimal). In addition, it is possible to superimpose CMYK and Pantone® for a high-quality rendering but at a certain cost to your company.

If you are planning to create a visual identity for your company, a logo, brochures or other visual elements, do not hesitate to contact us, our art directors and graphic experts will be able to guide you throughout your project.