Print Shop Services

My life with PMS … in graphic design anyhow

“I want red and black on my letterhead.” Sounds easy, but if the stationary artwork came in over email, we’d have about 50 different “red’s” to choose from. So don’t be alarmed when the print shop calls and asks you “What PMS color do you want to use“. Huh!?!?! Read on and you’ll soon know exactly what they are talking about!

The Pantone Matching System is very popular in the printing industry to accurately reproduce spot colors on press and the print shop you are using should have a Pantone swatch book for you to look through determining the exact shade of red you’d like. Note it will have a number like “PMS 185” which the pressman will use to mix the ink.

When using programs like Adobe InDesign, you can pick numerous spot colors on screen but know what you see on the screen doesn’t mean that is how it will print. Always see a swatch book so you will know exactly how the ink looks on paper.

This standardized method of color choice will enable you to get the same results here in Oregon, or over in Vermont! Well, that is of course in theory, as a lot of other things affect the color you see from the whiteness of the paper, to the ambient light in the room. Also, note the PMS swatch book has a glossy paper section and a matte section. The inks on the 2 sections are exactly the same. For fun hold both PMS 185’s together and note how different the colors look. Yikes. So if you are printing on a glossy paper stock, use the glossy section of the book for reference.

While my life with the PMS has had its headaches, frustrations, and general ups-n-downs, its saved my bacon countless times when the customer sees exactly how the color will look before 5,000 prints are off the press. Not to mention the press people hate it when you tell them the customer said to just “pick a red”, …they never pick right – well at least that’s what the customer says. Another reprint – there go the bonuses this year….

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