What is Color Separation

What is Color Separation, and why is it used?

A comprehensive guide to Color Separation

In lay-man’s terms color separation is the identification of different composite colors prior to printing. Color separation is majorly used to print multi-color images of high-quality. Today’s printing devices are automatically capable of analyzing and separating color layers in any given image, yet color separation is still widely used.

When real-life or vector images are to be manually printed, pre-press companies use different screens for each color, and here is where color separation first occurs. Color separation professionals apply disparate colors to create the perfect blend and thus endeavor to achieve the desired output.

When viewed under a business lens, color separation is a service mainly for the print and pre-press industry. Before a full-color image is printed, print companies separate each image’s colors into four basic colors. You guessed it right- CMYK or cyan,magenta, yellow and black. Print professionals separate screen plates for the subsequent color mixture. Each color is printed separately on top of the other for the final print of the image. CMYK screen plates can be mixed for an almost infinite number of colors.

Types of color separation

Now that we know what color separation entails let’s get down to the four types of color separation guidelines commonly used-

1. Process color

Process color separation is mainly used for the printing of CMYK colors. These four basic colors are applied to full-color images. Process color separation is done by including halftone dots on the print surface.

Process color

2. Spot color

The most common form of color separation is spot color. Spot color finds prevalent print apparel usage as it is perfect for a single color logo/artwork. Software like adobe illustrator is used for spot color separation as it is vector based therefore eliminating concerns of pixilation.

Spot color

3. Simulated-process color

Simulate-process color separation is playfully termed “fake” CMYK/channel separation. This method does, in fact, produce the exact appearance of process color separation; however, unlike Process color separation, simulated process color is done by the application of spot colors. Simulated process color separation is done mainly in photoshop.

Simulated-process color

4. Index color

Print companies use index color separation for artworks and pattern printing. It uses halftone dots to create a random pattern termed the stochastic, which enables high-quality print outputs.

Index color

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Use cases for each method

Each of the four methods used for color separation carries its own use case. Detailed below are when printing professionals deploy each color separation method-

CMYK Process Color- Mainly used for photorealistic images.

Spot color- Mainly used for high-quality process prints

Simulated process color- Mainly used for darker photorealistic images

Index color- Requires more colors than simulated or process color and is used mainly on textiles

Color Separation software:

The Color separation process uses a lot of online and offline tools. The most noteworthy of these tools are Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Photoshop. Photoshop is mainly used to separate colorrasters on real-life images, and Illustrator and Corel draw for vector images

Color Separation software

Computer Requirements

The market has many applications/software that can handle your seps easily. The only issue is that most programs have been created to cater to print on paper, where separations are much easier. The software, therefore, requires expert users who know how to tweak their commands for screen printing.

The computer choices are obvious, Mac or PC. Most artists and students prefer MAC because it’s morehip and happening to work on a MAC while businesspeople, owners/operators of printing businesses would be better off working on a PC, given that you can bang on the keys as hard as you like without feeling guilty. For both computers, you would require at least 16 gigs of RAM.

Vector Print Programs

Adobe Illustrator and Corel draw are the main vector programs that are pretty nearly the bread-butter of the entire industry. Both these programs work exceptionally well with “hard-edge”/ vector graphics.

Corel Draw is the traditional, more down-to-earth cousin of Adobe illustrator with a similar relationship that PCs have with MACs. Both programs run equally well on both Oss and color separations in illustrator follow the same method as in Corel Draw. They are pretty much neck-in-neck when it comes to functionality, so the choice between them would depend on personal preferences.

Vector Print Programs

Raster Programs

Photoshop is easily the world’s most popular raster/pixel program. And when asked how to do color separation in Photoshop, the answer is through channels. Photoshop feels like a mystery to many screeners who are comfortable with spot colorwork, and yet color separation Photoshop stands in a class apart if any higher-end seps are required.

Raster Programs

When the customer provides the printing company/dept with a JPEG file, web graphic, or a low resolution image, or any other non-vector picture, it can be included in the image with a vector program. However, separation (apart from CMYK) become extremely difficult, and therefore the need for Photoshop arises to create “channel” separations.

If you walk into a clothing store and a vibrant full-color image greets you, you can rest assured that it was built either in Corel, Photoshop, or Illustrator, but the color separation was done in Photoshop.

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In summation

Color separation is an essential aspect of printing, especially for prints on textiles. Learning and applying color separation is extremely important for designers. IT might seem a little complicated at first, but like everything else, practice makes perfect.

Color separation is an imperative of the image production process, and screen printers are aware that there is much to be done if they desire a high-quality print of the image they are working on.

Once the color separation is completed, ensure that your designers follow screen printing best practices to produce quality output. Finally, check your press before printing to make sure that there are no loose print heads or pallets that could jeopardize the process.

IIPVAPI is a leading name in production quality printing, top rated photo retouching services, and highly accurate color separation online. Whether it is a digital, paper, or textile print, you can rest assured that our designers and print professionals serve you with an output that not just meets your requirements but adds in a “wow” factor to exceed them.