Printing Colored Inks on Colored Paper
When you design a brochure
or other project to be printed on colored paper, you need
to consider the following.
Many printing inks are transparent.
If your job is to be printed in process colors, the ink
will definitely be transparent. Therefore, your final printed
product will not look like the image on your color monitor.
The color of the paper will affect how the color of the
ink actually appears. If you are not aware of this, you
may be in for a big surprise. For example, you may want
to print a process color photograph on a cream stock. It
seems that most of the paper stocks are different colors
of cream. Often, very white paper stock has to be specially
ordered which is more time consuming and more expensive.
On the cream colored stock, the yellow tones of the paper
will shift the colors in the photograph, and you may or
may not like the result. A blue sky for example might have
a greenish cast. How can you avoid this? You have a few
First of all, if you want a cream background
but you don’t want the photos affected by the cream
tint of the sheet, you can print the job on a white press
sheet and then paint the sheet--excluding the process color
photographs--with a cream screen also made with process
inks. The benefit of this option is that the printing sheet
behind the photographs would be white and therefore would
not alter the color of the photos, and the rest of the sheet
would appear to be a cream tint.
Another option would be to paint the
sheet behind the photographs with opaque white. This would
seal the paper fibers and provide a white background or
“base” for the photographs. In essence, you
would get the same effect described above. However, all
paper except where the photos are printed will have the
texture and color of the actual cream-colored stock.
Your third option, which would be far
less predictable, would be to give your offset print provider
a sample similar to your job and ask him to match the effect
and colors. This option could be problematic since it would
give you less control and since your proof, provided on
white paper stock in most cases, probably would not be an
accurate model of your finished piece. Your printer would
also probably need to adjust your photos a bit after you
have submitted the job, and this might be expensive. The
success of this option would depend exclusively on the skill
of your printer and your ability to communicate the effect
In terms of price, the first
option (printing on white paper stock and laying down a
screen for the background) probably would be the cheapest
and most controllable. Laying down opaque white behind the
photos would probably be the most expensive option, although
it would still be controllable. Having your printer alter
the photos within the art files in an attempt to match a
sample printed piece would be the least controllable option,
and the system time in prepress, potential multiple proofing
cycles, and press checks to make sure you like the color
could easily become very expensive.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]