Affordable printing with Pantones

When it comes to my own personal work or any freelance clients, I’ve always just gone down the CMYK route for budget reasons.

But this of course means very drab looking colours in some situations and pretty much rules out any nice punchy green colours.

I’m wondering if there are any printers out there, similar to, that offer printing with Pantones? and some nice paper stock?

I’ve always found Moo ideal for stationery, but am limited to just CMYK.

A google search did bring up these guys - - but I have no idea how good they are.

Most of those places, like Moo and Vista etc, offer their cheap prices because they gang run everything on CMYK presses, with limited stock (and therefore limited profiles.) They will say to apply your Pantones and will even charge for a match, but they are still using CMYK inks and might get close at best on some of those Pantone colors.

Nice. Fast. Cheap.
Pick any two.

Any spot colour printing carries a premium, because most printers are set up for CMYK. Same with online printers, same with your friendly neighbourhood print shop.

As already mentioned, these less expensive online offset printers keep down costs through gang printing. They have their presses set up for specific kinds of work, then gang up multiple jobs onto the same press run. Typically, that means CMYK plus an aqueous flood coating on a limited selection of commonly requested paper stocks.

They determine their gang printing options based on how many customers request those options over a short enough time period to justify setting up a press with those options. If experience tells them that they will receive enough business card orders for gold foil or rounded corners, they will set up their system to accommodate those options.

However, there are around 1,800 Pantone inks. No gang printer will ever receive enough orders for all those Pantone inks to justify offering them. As PrintDriver mentioned, if they claim to match Pantone colors, it will be a CMYK match. Of course, this won’t include the out-of-gamut Pantone colors you specifically mentioned.

Just out of curiosity, I looked at their site and filled out an order.

They claim to offer all the standard Pantone options for a low price. However, their site is short on details about how they’re doing this.

When I got to the file upload page, it became more obvious. Here’s part of the message that popped up.

This last-minute message seems to disavow their claim to print Pantone spot color. It also disagrees with their examples showing bleeds.

Something’s off. I wouldn’t trust them.

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I’ve been trying to convert a Pantone to CMYK and its left over from a previous designer. I can get close to the Pantone but the RGB, and CMYK are nowhere where the Pantone actually is so its leading to my marketing supervisor who has no design skill having a brand identitiy crisis.

I simply told her the facts and offered some solutions to try to remedy the issue. (the pantone is a dark navy) and the CMYK is dark blue or if im unlucky a grey blue, and the RGB is a navy blue).

She insists on using a print service where we “upload a JPEG of the business card” and i simply said, “if color accuracy is the goal, and price isnt a problem we should just find a pantone printer”

But alas, she decided to order a small run of cards for 9$ and shipping was $14. She was flabbergasted. They are arriving this week. :upside_down_face:

If either quality or color accuracy is an objective, the JPEG thing would be the deal-killer for me, as would the absurdly low price that guarantees anything but good results.

You chose cheap and quick. Won’t be good. But what do you want to bet that a no-skill marketing supervisor will absolutely love those cards, because they ordered them all by their own little selves.

Got the test prints in today, about 5% were unuseable due to what I only assume to be calibration issues. If you look close you can see the redmagetna specks hiding in the color. The color differences between the versions are minimal, but where it really “shines” is the bleed-into the white 4pt-6pt type she added. (she was pushing for 6pt, but I insisted at 9pt and 18pt).

Neither version matches the pantone which has more indigo/dark navy notes. Its subtly off…I can’t do much more than I did. The marketing director pretending to be creative director who last week as i met her in person refered to herself as a creative/graphic designer.

I’m not there to pass on my knowledge to someone who wants to create their own pintrest mood board start-up for a instagram brand. (That would dive too far off topic) I’m curious about my own knowledge though. The print service our warehouse uses doesnt use spot colors. I was converting colors last week from 2766-C to the CMYK (still not accurate representation of the pantone).

This is probably the most print work I’ve done so I feel as if im out of my element having only been used to digital. It just doesnt seem like it should be difficult to find a printer who doesnt just convert to CMYK.

Finding a good printer isn’t at all difficult. Most good, local offset printers will gladly take on spot color work. The problem comes into play when people conditioned to cheap online gang printing expect more than they’re willing to pay.

The same problem occurs when designers run into clients who think the 5er prices they found online represent the going rate for good, quality work.


You can’t just use the book conversion when going from Spot to CMYK. A good printer will be profiled in some fashion, in the US wide format market (your mileage will vary,) the machines are callibrated to Pantone Coated (even if you are using a matte medium.) If you apply the actual Pantone number, the profiled machine conversion can be really close depending on the skill of the color tech in doing the calibrating. Quite a number of places seem to just rely on the profile downloads without checking, and that can be just as bad as not using them at all, if the machine/rip isn’t properly calibrated.

Some places will actually go so far as to print a chart and do the swaps. You pay a premium per color matched that way, but if color accuracy is extremely important to you, that low-2-figure fee shouldn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. Of course that fee is often more than a whole ream of gang run business cards…
Pick your poison

If your CMYK conversions aren’t working, talk to your printer about how they would suggest getting a better color match.

It didnt seem as if our printer was using the embed profiles to download. I know he was checking the Print Production settings in acrobat.

A few months ago we were printing new material for a new brand. The RGB looked golden yellow. LQ office printer printed it more yellow. The Epson 15000x photo printed it out more golden orange. (colors werent choosen by me, but our former Creative Director who had no design exp. [former senior designer had to teach her about RGB and CMYK])

The final product ended up being printed on what appears to be 90# glossy stock and the yellow naturally was different than any test print before. (company is ran backwards so the product launched before any product was in-house or any material was designed for it so time wasn’t on our side for test prints or adjusting that yellow as the CEO loves it the way it is).

-.- anyone want to fill my shoes? lol sole designer at the company now.

Quite honestly?
You wouldn’t be able to embed ANY of the profiles my print subs use. Heck, some of them are proprietary and they don’t even let me have them after working with them for 20 years. LOL!

You have generic profiles in your software. If the printer is good, their machines are callibrated for the stock, inkset, and machine they are using and they will apply them in the pre-press process. They are very often custom, especially those shops offering cross-media matching. They take time and an experienced tech to set them up.

Ask your printer if they have Job Options for the various stuff you do. You can load those into Acrobat and create specifically profiled files that should do a lot better in your printer’s workflow.

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I’ll have to do this then, Thanks

@Billyjeanplxiv, I’ve been mentioning Pantone in the context of offset. PrintDriver has been approaching it from the viewpoint of digital printing. These are two very different printing technologies that use Pantone’s matching system in very different ways.

You mentioned CMYK, so I assumed offset. If you’re using digital printing, trying to match Pantone colors in a CMYK color space makes little sense. This is because digital printing devices can typically print a wider color gamut than CMYK, which can usually better approximate a Pantone color.

If a job is printed offset, there’s just no way to approximate some Pantone colors using CMYK inks. Instead, matching a Pantone color in conjunction with CMYK requires a separate Pantone ink on a 5-color press. With digital printing, the options are more varied regarding approximation due to the larger color gamut extending somewhat beyond CMYK.

Understanding these printing technology issues is critical to selecting which printing technology (and printing company) to use and how to prepare the artwork correctly to accommodate those choices.

I don’t quite understand what you’re saying, but you seem to be implying that you’re printing small type using multiple inks. This is never a good idea due to registration issues. When you’re using an actual Pantone spot color with offset, fine — that’s just a single color. A Pantone approximation (offset or digital) will use multiple inks and should never be used to print text — especially small text.

You should see some of the 4-color text we can print, and how small it can go. But it is very media specific
Again digital with a fairly wide gamut and small picoliter count droplet size (and sometimes on grass-grows-faster print speed, LOL)

It’s also specific to printing companies. The kinds of printing that push the boundaries of what’s possible require a company with the right equipment and a reputation built upon quality, attention to detail, personalized service, and press operators who appreciate the challenge. This comes with a price to match, though. When filling out an online form and uploading a file to a low-cost online printer, it’s safe to assume the opposite will be true.

You said this though

A Pantone approximation (offset or digital) will use multiple inks and should never be used to print text — especially small text.

Never say “never.” :slight_smile:
Printing is all about vetting your sources.

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True. I should have said, as a rule of thumb, never color small text using multiple inks unless you’re sure the printing company you’ve chosen is capable of pulling off the tight registration to ensure there will be no rainbowed edges on the printed letters.

Sometimes, it takes way too many words to explain the nuanced exceptions. Sometimes, it’s just easier (and more to the point) to say, “Don’t do that (unless you’re sure you and the people you’re working with know what they’re doing).” :wink:

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