The four color process is close to ubiquitous in the printing world. For customers of printing services companies, that means it's a good idea to understand how to prepare their files for use with the four colors. Here are 5 tips to maximize the returns you'll get from going with the four color process.
1. Know the Four Colors
It might sound like a joke, but the four color system only has three colors. The three colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow. Joining them as a partner in crime is black, stepping in to provide the various levels of shading and tone for each color combination. This process is listed as CMYK in most software packages, with the first three letters signifying cyan, magenta, and yellow while the K stands for black.
2. Use CMYK Color Profiles
You should always convert your files to a CMYK profile before sending them to a printer. In most modern vector and raster graphics systems, this should embed the profile in the digital file. If you don't do this, you're going to be subject to whatever profiles the printing company has access to. This can lead to a serious mismatch between your vision for the project and the result.
3. Know Which Colors to Avoid
If at all possible, you want to plan around the process when designing products. Several blends of colors don't work well in CMYK, including orange and navy. Likewise, metallic and fluorescent colors are hard to reproduce in CMYK.
If you're looking for a more photographic result, you may want to consider a higher number of colors in the process. Using six colors is the next step up, but some printing companies offer many more combinations.
4. Pick Appropriate Paper
Working with the whitest paper available for a project is strongly recommended. You should also consider working with the glossiest and smoothest paper. Avoid papers that have textures, too. Notably, this does not mean you're committed to using a white background. The colors can be used to produce a background.
5. Make a Smart Font Selection
Especially if you're mixing colors and tones without tight boundaries, it's prudent to select fairly large fonts. Something like a 12-point font is about as small as you should attempt with a four color process. If you choose to use a smaller typeface, you should be prepared to see fuzziness around the letters. Most products made with the process look best with sharp lines and little blurring, and it's best to limit the amount of photography used in them.