“mixing” CMYK

Hi everyone,

I’ve got a question about ink mixing. Van Son has recently introduced a new line of ink called VS Zero, which is vegetable based (http://www.printingnews.com/web/online/Products/Van-Son-Intros-Vs-Zero-Ink-to-Vs-Series-Ink-Product-Line/4$9122). I was really excited about it, until I found out that that they’re only releasing it in CMYK colors instead of the full Pantone mixing line. I realize that CMYK colors are intended for 4 color process prints, i.e. 4 different plates using various amounts of each of the 4 colors, registered perfectly. I’ve read a few other discussions on here about trying to print 4 color process on letterpress, and that’s not really something I’m interested in doing.

What I AM wondering is would it be possible to mix these inks together before printing, as one would Pantone colors, to formulate a color to be printed with one letterpress plate? Is there any guide that would be able to provide accurate conversions between Pantone colors and CMYK values, so that I could mix them myself? Am I insane?


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Pantone sells a “Color Bridge” (what used to be called a Solid to Process Guide), that shows how to simulate Pantone spot colors using CMYK on a four-color press. Since it gives percentages for printing each of the process colors, you could probably use those percentages as a starting point for actually mixing the process colors to come somewhere close to Pantone colors, I suppose. I’d guess you’d still have to make adjustments, and as usual you’d typically want to mix a shade or so lighter to compensate for the thicker ink film of letterpress printing.

It might be easier to wait for Van Son or another manufacturer to produce a line of ink like you want, in Pantone basic colors. Have you looked at Tokyo Ink’s “Zipset” inks? They sound similar to VS Zero although probably not zero VOCs.

Dave R. (the Ink in Tubes guy)

I completely agree with Dave. Also, keep in mind that you won’t be able to make all of the PMS colors from the CMYK colors. This is because whenever you match colours from other colours, the farther apart the base colours are that you use to match them, the dirtier (lower chroma), the matched colors will be. Since all of the CMYK colors are fairly far apart in hue, this limits the colors that you can make.

The PMS base colors, on the other hand, allow you to make more colors because there are more of these bases, and they are spread out more or less evenly throughout the visible spectrum. Thus, combinations of them which are close together can be chosen to match some of the cleaner (higher chroma) colors which require this.