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Printing Color Options For Packaging

Printing Color Options For Packaging

When it comes to printing on packaging, color is one of the most important components in attracting a consumer. Most people aren’t aware that there is a variety of different color process options to choose from including; CMYK, PMS, and GCMI. Understanding the difference between them all, will help you make the best decision for your business needs. It is important to take into consideration accuracy, pricing, lead time, and cost.

What is 4 color process: CMYK

Four color printing utilizes Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK), to create the visual effect of a full-color image. The process is applied through adding tiny dots, overlapping in different concentrations to create a match as exact as possible to the desired colors. 

CMYK can be applied digitally or with other printing methods, and is best for full-color images. It is not 100% accurate when it comes to color matching, which means your image could look different run to run. If you need 10 colors for your print, this process will create the image as close as possible using only 4 colors. On traditional printing when a specific color cannot be produced by the 4 color process, you can choose to incorporate a specific PMS color into the CMYK colors. Although this adds on to the overall cost, it will give the ability to create more color variations.

If you aren’t sure about your artwork and think there might be some changes, always stick to CMYK digital printing because there is no initial investment and it is easier to change. Ultimately this method is cheaper when deciding which color printing process to choose.


Advantages of CMYK:

  • Cheapest
  • Fastest
  • No startup cost
  • Easy to change/edit image
  • Prints images with wide range of color

Disadvantages of CMYK:

  • Not 100% accurate
  • Not consistent run to run
  • Shade variation
Custom Corrugated Food Carrier

What Are Specific Colors: 

Pantone Matching System

Pantone Matching Systems also known as (PMS) is created using a specific numbering system and is applied using a spot color method. This system is printed using flexographic printing, which has a numbering system that allows for exact color matching and consistency. There is currently over a thousand colors, each given a number and a name, which creates a universally recognized matching system. 

Although this system is overall more expensive, it is necessary when needing an exact color match. PMS color process is best for those who need their image, logo or design to be an exact color or have perfect attention to detail. 

Glass Containers Manufacturers Institute

Glass Containers Manufacturers Institute also known as (GCMI) is a water-based ink used in flexographic printing. It is similar to PMS, in which they both ensure the perfect match to your prints. This coloring system has less than a hundred colors and is targeted to corrugated and paper board. 

Custom tuck top mailer box with print


Two Sided Printed Corrugated Shipping Box


Advantages of Specific Colors:

  • Exact coloring
  • Consistent results run to run
  • Has a universally recognized matching system

Disadvantages of Specific Colors: 

  • More expensive
  • Limited applications
  • GCMI can only be used on corrugated and paper board

Summary 4 Color Process VS Specified Colors:

Overall each color process has their own benefits. CMYK is best used for images and for an affordable and almost accurate color print. Both PMS and GCMI are best for exact color match printing, but are more expensive and have limited application. GCMI is accurate when it comes to color match but is only used for printing on corrugated boxes. 

It is best to weigh out your options to determine which color printing method would be best for your business needs. It is important to take into consideration cost, lead time, consistency, and accuracy. If you need help determining which color method to choose, please contact Brown Packaging today so one of our packaging experts can assist you.

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