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Our resident print designer Aled gives the  low down on the nitty gritty of print design… we’ve pulled some of the highlights for your very own guide to print 101.

What print does that digital can’t yet?

  • Illicit greater emotional responses from potential customers which, consequently, leads to greater brand recognition and retention of information
  • A combination of carefully conceived print and digital is thought to be the most effective approach for companies to maximise the effectiveness of their marketing.
  • Studies have shown that people spend more time reading printed information than they do the equivalent in a digital space due to the added distractions digital devices provide.

*It also smells nicer than a website

What is the difference between colour for print and for digital?

A crash course in colour for print.

What is CMYK?

Also knows as ‘process colour’, ‘four colour’ and ‘full colour’, CMYK stands for the 4 process colours it’s made up of: cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black). Unlike digital, which utilises the expansive and vibrant gamut of RGB, all print work should be prepared in the CMYK colour space.

These colour profiles are present in all our design software.  Using the correct profile at the beginning of a project will ensure that the project onscreen is representative of the printed outcome.

What is the difference between CMYK and RGB?

RGB is an additive colour process during which adding colours together produces light, and adding R+G+B will give you white. It’s used for websites, digital devices, screens, cameras, televisions. It has a much wider spectrum of available colours than CMYK and can make brighter and more vibrant colours because it emits light.

CMYK, on the other hand, is a subtractive colour process during which adding colours creates other, darker colours.  Adding C+M+Y together produces an imperfect black or perfect grey, which is why K is added to this process. It’s called “K” rather than “B” to avoid confusion with Blue.

CMYK has a more limited “gamut”* which results in colours that can appear duller or sometimes dirtier – particularly oranges, purples and some greens. Colours that are “outside of gamut” all together cannot be recreated through the 4 colour process. This is where Pantone come in to play.   More about that later.



RGB%20CMYK – Spindogs



CMYK in the wild – Breaking down the Spindogs Christmas Card.

These are CMYK separations. When they’re all laid upon one another, the full colour image is revealed as seen in the upcoming GIF.

– Spindogs


c – Spindogscm – Spindogs


cmy – Spindogscmyk – Spindogs

What’s Pantone?

Pantone is not an Italian cake, but a colour matching system that standardises 2868 colours in the CMYK process so that they can be accurately printed. CMYK values are denoted below each swatch. There are separate Pantone guides for Coated and Uncoated, as colours print differently on different stocks. Consequently some brands have more than one Pantone reference.

panetone – Spindogs

What are colour spots?

Not all colours can be recreated using CMYK – 1,114 spot colours cannot be simulated with CMYK, but with 13 base pigments (14 including black) mixed in specified amounts. The Pantone system also allows for many special colours to be produced, such as metallics, pastels and fluorescents. Spot colours have peerless coverage and accuracy as they are mixed from a pre-prepared formula to produce smooth colour coverage and consistency.

Spot colours use separate plates to CMYK.  This will affect costs differently depending on the project.  If you are adding spot colours to a 4 colour job, the cost will increase. 1 spot colour makes it a 5 colour job, 2 spot colours make it a 6 colour job etc. Costs go up. If a brand are printing stationery, for instance, this may only require 2 plates (their spot colour and black) which is more cost effective than using a CMYK process to achieve a colour.

What are the types of stock used in print?

In the print industry, the cool kids call paper “stock”, although it can also be other materials. Stock falls into one of two main categories: coated & uncoated. Within those, it can be budget, standard or premium. In addition to the sizes you know (A4, A3, etc.) it is also measured in GSM, which stands for grams per square meter. The higher the GSM, the thicker the paper.

Some types of premium paper used in print include laid, textured, snow and sand paper, as well as recycled paper (for environmentally conscious companies). There are also other materials you can print on, such as plastic (for outdoor posters / weatherproof / pull up banners), vinyl (stickers / decals / vehicle /signage) and banners.

How to make your designs more luxurious?

For those who are looking to break up CMYK with something shinier and go the extra mile for the client, thinking outside the box or calling on some more specialist or extravagant print processes can make a big difference to the outcome of a project. While these aren’t right for all clients, they can have a huge impact when used correctly and turn a solid project into an outstanding and memorable one.


– Spindogs


Embossing is an old school technique that is popular with Patrick Bateman and power brokers. Again, it adds a luxurious and executive finish, texture and a sensory appeal. Most often used for high end business cards or exclusive invitations. Embossing is more effective on thicker stock.

UV Gloss

UV gloss is effective and eye catching. It adds texture and allows for black on black, which is visually very impressive. We used this technique on Triumph SS 2018 Customer Clothing Guide. UV gloss can be used in large areas or in “spot” areas to create textures. It works well on coated/uncoated.


Similarly to UV gloss, foiling another affective and eye catching we used on Triumph SS 2018 Customer Clothing Guide. It can be playful and youthful, or very classy, depending on how it’s employed. Foiling is particularly effective on dark stock.

Die cutting

Die cutting is the process of cutting away sections of a page to reveal areas of the following (and/or preceding) page. We used die cutting in the HCRW Annual Report 2018 as an intriguing and creative means of highlighting. This technique definitely adds a level of consideration to design!

If you are interested in original and unique designs that help your business stand out from the crowd, then it’s important to have a design team who really know their stuff. Head over to our dedicated print design page and learn how we can help!

How can we help?