Sunday, 6 November 2011

What Is Design for Print?//Monochrome/Duotone/Spot Colours

Researching informaiton on the specifics (and definitions) of monochrome, duotone, and spot colours for content for my 'What Is Design for Print?' ISSUU- based print handbook publication. All information, combined with my own knowledge from this design module shall be utilised, and written in my own words for the final design outcome. All developments and design of the publication can be found on my Design Practice blog in the forthcoming weeks.


adjective /ˈmänəˌkrōm/ 
  1. (of a photograph or picture, or a television screen) Consisting of or displaying images in black and white or in varying tones of only one color

  2. Lacking variety and interest; insipid
    • - the monochrome circuit of traveling Broadway productions

noun /ˈmänəˌkrōm/ 
monochromes, plural
  1. A photograph or picture developed or executed in black and white or in varying tones of only one color

  2. Representation or reproduction in black and white or in varying tones of only one color

Monochrome describes paintings, drawings, design, or photographs in one color or shades of one color. A monochromatic object or image has colors in shades of limited colors or hues. Images using only shades of grey (with or without black and/or white) are called grayscale or black-and-white. However, scientifically speaking, "Monochromatic light" refers to light of a narrow frequency.


For an image, the term monochrome is usually taken to mean the same as black and white or, more likely, grayscale, but may also be used to refer to other combinations containing only tones of a single color, such as green-and-white or green-and-black. It may also refer to sepia displaying tones from light tan to dark brown or cyanotype (“blueprint”) images, and early photographic methods such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes, each of which may be used to produce a monochromatic image.
In computing, monochrome has two meanings:
  • it may mean having only one color which is either on or off,
  • allowing shades of that color, although this is more correctly known as grayscale.
A monochrome computer display is able to display only a single color, often green, amber, red or white, and often also shades of that color.
In film photography, monochrome is typically the use of black-and-white film. Originally, all photography was done in monochrome until the invention of color film plates in the early 20th century.

In digital photography, monochrome is the capture of only shades of black by the sensor, or by post-processing a color image to present only the perceived brightness by combining the values of multiple channels (usually red, blue, and green). The weighting of individual channels may be selected to achieve a desired artistic effect – if only the red channel is selected by the weighting then the effect will be similar to that of using a red filter on panchromatic film. If the red channel is eliminated and the green and blue combined then the effect will be similar to that of Orthochromatic film or the use of a cyan filter on panchromatic film. The selection of weighting thus allows a wide range of artistic expression in the final monochromatic image.
For production of an anaglyph image the original color stereogram source may first be reduced to monochrome in order to simplify the rendering of the image. This is sometimes required in cases where a color image would render in a confusing manner given the colors and patterns present in the source image and the selection filters used (typically red and its complement cyan).


In physics, monochromatic refers to electromagnetic radiation of a single frequency. In the physical sense, no source of electromagnetic radiation is purely monochromatic, since that would require a wave of infinite duration as a consequence of the Fourier transform's localization property (cf. spectral coherence). Even very controlled sources such as lasers operate in a range of frequencies (known as the spectral linewidth). In practice, filtered light, diffraction grating separated light and laser light are all routinely referred to as monochromatic. Often light sources can be compared and one be labeled as “more monochromatic” (in a similar usage as monodispersity). And a device which isolates light sources of a narrow bandwidth are called monochromators, even though the bandwidth is often explicitly specified, and thus a collection of frequencies is understood.


noun /ˈd(y)o͞oəˌtōn/ 
duotones, plural
  1. A halftone illustration made from a single original with two different colors at different screen angles

  2. The technique or process of making such illustrations
    • - the best images that duotone can produce


Duotone is a halftone reproduction of an image using the superimposition of one contrasting color halftone (traditionally black) over another color halftone. This is most often used to bring out middle tones and highlights of an image. The most common colors used are blue, yellow, browns and reds.
Now due to recent advances in technology, duotones, tritones, and quadtones can be easily created using image manipulation programs.


Duotones hail from Cyanotype and halftone prints. Color images in newspapers and comic books are usually halftone prints and occasionally duotones.

Modern use

Duotone color mode in Adobe's Photoshop uses an imaging process that computes the highlights and middle tones in a black and white image then allows the user to choose any color ink as the second color.

Fake Duotone

A fake duotone, or duograph, is done by printing a single color with a one color halftone over it. This process is generally not preferred over a regular duotone as it loses much of the contrast of the image.


Web definitions
  • In offset printing, a spot color is any color generated by an ink (pure or mixed) that is printed using a single run.

  • (Spot Colours) Refers to solid colours which are found in commercially obtainable colour ranges such as Pantone®, these are mostly used in addition to CMYK where CMYK is not available e.g. Printing gold or silver. ...

  • The technique of colouring for emphasis some areas of basic black-and-white advertisements, usually with a single colour.

  • Ink colour(s) other than black, used as a highlight or attention-getter

Spot color

In offset printing, a spot color is any color generated by an ink (pure or mixed) that is printed using a single run.
The widely spread offset-printing process is composed of four spot colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black) commonly referred to as CMYK. More advanced processes involve the use of six spot colors (hexachromatic process), which add Orange and Green to the process (termed CMYKOG). The two additional spot colors are added to compensate for the ineffective reproduction of faint tints using CMYK colors only. However, offset technicians around the world use the term spot color to mean any color generated by a non-standard offset ink; such as metallic, fluorescent, spot varnish, or custom hand-mixed inks.
When making a multi-color print with a spot color process, every spot color needs its own lithographic film. All the areas of the same spot color are printed using the same film, hence, using the same lithographic plate. The dot gain, hence the screen angle and line frequency, of a spot color vary according to its intended purpose. Spot lamination and UV coatings are sometimes referred to as 'spot colors', as they share the characteristics of requiring a separate lithographic film and print run.

Computer methods

There are various methods to incorporate rather sophisticated patterns of spot colors in the final prepress artwork. Software applications such as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, QuarkXPress and Scribus may generate spot colors as additional channels. Adobe Photoshop can also be used to generate soft edges (widely known as feathered edges) of spot colors. The dissolve effect provided by Adobe Photoshop layer patterns can be generated for any spot color.

Optimizing usage

Generally the cost and potential for problems for a print job increase as one adds more spot colors, due to the increased cost and complexity of added process inks and films, and requiring more runs per finished print. However, spot colors can be a very powerful weapon in security printing, like money, passports, bonds, and other similar prints that should be hard to forge. Money printing for example, uses secret formulae of spot colors, some of which can be seen by the naked eye, and some cannot be seen unless by using special lights, or by applying certain chemicals.


Spot colors are now a great business for a company like Pantone. The modern trend in spot color matching systems is the digitization of spot colors. This idea came from the fact that a spot color print won't be a match to the monitor's colors, due to the inherent differences in printed (ink) colors and monitor (light) colors. To achieve a rather good result of simulating the RGB colors into CMYK colors in offset prints, a proper monitor calibration should be done to realize a good balance between reproduction of gray color on paper and on screen.


Spot color classification has led to thousands of discrete colors being given unique names or numbers. There are several industry standards in the classification of spot color systems, such as:
  • Pantone, the dominant spot color printing system in the United States and Europe.
  • Toyo, a common spot color system in Japan.
  • DIC, another common Japanese spot color system.
  • ANPA, a palette of 300 colors specified by the American Newspaper Publishers Association for spot color usage in newspapers.
  • GCMI, a standard for color used in package printing developed by the Glass Packaging Institute (formerly known as the Glass Container Manufacturers Institute, hence the abbreviation).
  • HKS is a color system which contains 120 spot colors and 3250 tones for coated and uncoated paper. HKS is an abbreviation of three German color manufacturers: Hostmann-Steinberg Druckfarben, Kast + Ehinger Druckfarben and H. Schmincke & Co.
Because each color system creates their own colors from scratch, spot colors from one system may be impossible to find within the library of another.

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