About Color Separation

About Color Separation

Color Separation is the process of converting an image, such as photograph, into a set of colors that can be printed. Color separations for screen printing can be made using ®Adobe Photoshop.

color separation
Color Separation

Images are converted from RGB to spot colors  for screen printing.

When an image is brought into ®Adobe Photoshop, it is usually in a color mode compatible with the device that it was created on. This is often the RGB color mode, which  is a common mode for digital cameras and computer monitors. The RGB mode is based on the blending of Red, Green and Blue light. To screen print an image, the colors must be converted to a combination of colors compatible with screen printing. The resulting set of colors is called a Color Separation.

Separation types

Color separations for garment printing are generally divided into 3 types:

• Process color
• Simulated process
• Spot color

Process color:

Process color separations use Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK) to create the colors in an image. Process color separations can be made by converting a file from the RGB Mode to the CMYK mode using Adobe Photoshop®. CMYK inks are transparent and blend on press.

CMYK, or Process color separation
CMYK, or Process color separation

A Process color separation uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black

Process color printing usually requires more then just the 4 basic CMYK colors for a quality print. Adding a highlight white helps to control the lighter color ranges. Additional custom colors may also be included for spot color matching or out of gamut colors.

• Recommended for white or light colored garments. Increased difficulty on dark garments
• Requires the least number of screens for a full color image.

Simulated Process:

The Simulated Process technique offers the ability to print full color images on light or dark substrates. The inks used with this technique are semi-transparent, providing better coverage. but also blend on press like the Process colors.

Simulated process color separation
The Simulated process color separation

A simulated process separation can be printed with a limited color palette.

Like Process printing, Simulated Process techniques may use a standard set of  colors (6 or more) for most images. Separations can be customized for the image type and number of screens available.

• Requires a moderate number of screens for a full color image.
• Semi-opaque inks provide better coverage over dark garments.
• Uses a standard set of colors.

Spot colors:
Spot colors may be added to other types of separations, or used to create custom separations. A spot color will match specific colors in an image and will often be set to a Pantone® solid color. In addition to even better coverage over dark garments, spot colors offer more consistency while printing and between print runs.

The custom spot color separation
The custom spot color separation

A spot color separation using specific custom colors.

• Spot color Inks can be opaque or semi-opaque.
• Offers best coverage and color matching on dark substrates.
• Requires the most screens for a full color image.

Customized Color Separations

A color separation may use combination of these three separation styles, depending on the press and design requirements. For instance, a process color separation will often benefit from the addition of a spot color to increase the color range. A simulated process print may also include a process color or a custom spot color as needed. In practice, customized color separations are often used due to different printer/design requirements.

A custom color separation on a six color press
A custom color separation on a six color press

A customized process separation using a spot red and a highlight white

Separate colors fast with YRGBK 3