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Smartpress uses a CMYK digital printing process, which means our presses print a wide range of hues using cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks. For submitted print-ready files, we reproduce color as closely as we can but an exact color match is not possible. As a result, Pantone color-matching is not a Smartpress offering, except by special arrangement.

The term “color match” refers to the color rendering intent specified in the submitted artwork. If you specify a spot color in a document, we will simulate that color using CMYK ink to match it as closely as possible. The match will be as close we can get but will never be as exact as using a real spot color. Many bright or very dense colors cannot be matched well. In these cases, we print the next closest color we can produce.

Pantone Colors

Pantone colors are the most common type of spot color. Each color has a number that is also its name. For example, if you were to choose Pantone 286 C for an element in your artwork, this identifies an exact color (a very nice deep blue). That is what makes named spot colors so valuable.

Spot Colors

Spot colors were invented for lithographic printing, where ink was specially mixed to create specific colors. A spot color is a named color that is treated individually in the printing process. If you print with a spot color on a litho press, you are actually putting a special color of ink on the printing press to produce that very precise color. In programs like Adobe or Quark it is possible to choose spot colors. Most color in your document is specified as a CMYK, RGB or LAB formula. Spot colors, however, are specified by name.

Since spot colors are expensive, most printing is done using a combination of cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink on a four-color press. Those four colors in combination produce the vast array of color you see on a printed page.

You would think if you mixed those four colors just right, you could reproduce any spot color. This is true for most spot colors, but not all. For example, fluorescent colors are too bright to print with CMYK inks. Other spot colors have special properties that cannot be reproduced with standard inks, such as metallic-looking colors.


If your job is highly color-critical, we recommend ordering a hard proof so you know what kind of color you can expect for your artwork.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call us at 888-934-6909 or fill out our contact form.

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