Cut Down Your Color Printing Cost without Sacrificing Your Color Options

By Steve Bain

thrift-introBudget-challenged print designers and small business owners who create their own printed color brochures and marketing material are always looking for creative and resourceful ways to stay within budget without comprising their design or the reproduction quality. Fortunately, your CorelDRAW Graphics Suite includes resources that will help you do just that. In this tutorial, we’ll explore a few color techniques you can use to maximize your color options without maxing out your costs.

The techniques I cover in this tutorial generally apply to all versions of CorelDRAW (and potentially other graphic applications). The step sequences and the interface shown address features and options specifically available in version 12 and may vary when translated to earlier or later versions.

First, a Bit of Color Theory
Never underestimate the power of color in design. To your audience’s eye, colors are what spices are to food – not enough, and the dish can be boring. The colors in your design can command attention, set a mood, or influence an emotional response, so it’s critical to know how and when to use color. Generally, colors can be divided into two halves of the color spectrum: warm colors (purple, red, brown, orange) and cold colors (blue, yellow and green).

Warm colors can stir intense emotion while cold colors can be calming and reassuring. For example, red can imply passion, blue can reassure, and greens can signify health, growth, or renewal. Then there are the stereotypes: stark yellows can imply caution, weakness, or fear; purple can signify royalty; black and red are sometimes used to represent financial gain or loss.

While it’s worth keeping these factors in mind, your choices may be limited by print reproduction limitations, client preferences, corporate logo colors, costs, and other issues.

Color Ink and Multiple Ink Photos
Using rich, high-quality pictures can really add appeal to a layout. While it’s true that reproducing those same pictures without the full color can reduce their visual impact, you don’t necessarily need to abandon your color options altogether. The next best thing is to use spot color. With spot color inks, you aren’t restricted to using just one ink color. You can add extra colors by converting digital photos into duotones, which are specially prepared to print in two specific ink colors.

Single spot color ink photos are called monotones, which print in just one ink color. Although the term duotone describes all multiple ink photos, it also refers specifically to photos that have two ink colors. There are also tritones with three inks and quadtones with four inks. Virtually any picture can be converted to the duotone format and you can add, delete, or change ink colors to suit your design. You can also use spot color inks to adapt your design to best showcase the photo subjects.

Experimenting with different duotone ink combinations is a worthwhile time investment. You may even be surprised at the visual effect different colors can have on a photo or digital image. The examples below show the results of converting a series of grayscale photos to various duotones using different ink color schemes. In the first example of an antique locomotive, a black and orange duotone conversion produces the effect of a warm sepia tone.

The scenic photo of a forest stream shown below was converted to a two-color duotone featuring black and green.

The photo shown below of an aircraft on display was converted to a two-color duotone featuring black and blue.

To prepare your digital photo to include spot color inks, you’ll need to convert them using Corel PHOTO-PAINT before importing them into your layout. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open your digital photo in Corel PHOTO-PAINT and choose Image > Color Mode > Duotone. This opens the Duotone dialog shown below.
  2. From the Type list, choose one of the following number of ink colors for your photo: Monotone, Duotone, Tritone, or Quadtone. After choosing a type, the color list is automatically populated with default ink colors.
  3. To specify an ink color, double-click a default ink in the list. This opens the Select Color dialog. Click the Palettes tab, choose a fixed ink palette from the Palette list , select a color, and click OK.
  4. If necessary, adjust the tone curve for each ink color. To do this, select a color and manipulate the tone curve in the adjacent graph. By adjusting the tone curve (shown below), you’ll have full control over ink coverage in the highlight and shadow colors of your photo. To load a previously saved preset tone curve, click the Load button. To save your current settings and apply them later to other photos, click the Save button.
  5. With your ink colors set, you can save your photo as a either an encapsulated PostScript (EPS), desktop color separation (DCS), or Corel PHOTO-PAINT (CPT) by using the Files of Type list in the Save As dialog (File > Save As). Corel PHOTO-PAINT is the most compatible choice for use with CorelDRAW since it automatically includes detailed header information and preserves any clipping paths, masks, or alpha channels that your image contains.
  6. If either EPS or DCS is your preference, be sure to specify an image header in the secondary EPS Export dialog (shown below). This will enable you to view the photo content in your CorelDRAW layout.
  7. To import the image into your CorelDRAW layout, choose File > Import (Ctrl+I).

Saving your duotone as a Corel PHOTO-PAINT (CPT) image will enable you to easily change the duotone type, select different ink colors, or edit the highlight and shadow values of each ink color. If the duotone ink colors that you select are the same as those used in your layout, identical ink colors will automatically amalgamate during printing.

Create Your Own Color Styles
Depending on the photo subject, certain color combinations work well together and others simply do not. If you’re unsure of which colors to choose, it may help to experiment with different versions of the same document design. The example below shows two variations of a design in different color schemes.

If you’re changing object colors manually, evaluating the look of different color combinations can be time-consuming. Fortunately, you can do this quickly and easily with CorelDRAW – provided that you plan ahead. If you create color styles and apply them to your layout elements, you can instantly change the colors in a design by editing the color style.

Suppose you’re designing a print layout that will include two Pantone spot colors. You’ll be applying these ink colors in various tints throughout your document. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance you may need to make last minute changes to your ink color choices.

The solution is to use a color style for each ink color and create child colors to represent tints of your ink colors. Child colors are dynamically linked to their parent color styles which means that any change to the parent style will be automatically reflected in the linked child color.

Follow these basic steps to create a color style and a selection of linked child color tints:

  1. Choose Window > Dockers > Color Styles.
  2. On the Color Styles docker, click the New Color Style button. In the New Color Style dialog (shown below), click the Palettes tab and choose your ink color from the Name list – in this example, Pantone 360. Click OK to create the style. New styles are listed in the Color Styles docker under your document name folder.
  3. To create your color tints, click the New Child Color(s) button. In the Create a New Child Color dialog, enter 9 in the Create list. This will create a selection of child color tints in 10 percent increments. Click OK.
  4. Nine new child colors have now been added to the Color Styles docker under the new color style that you created (as shown below).
  5. Repeat these steps for each ink color that you’re using in your layout.

Now that your inks are specified as color styles and child colors, you can apply them to objects in your layout. Just drag the colors from the docker directly onto the fill or outline of the text or objects in your document. When your document is printed to separations, the color styles and child colors will separate normally to their specific plates.

Changing a color style’s ink color will instantly change all objects to which you’ve applied the style in your layout. Just select the color style in the docker list and click the Edit Color Style button. In the Edit Color Style dialog, specify a different color. Keep in mind though that only the objects to which you’ve applied color styles will change.

Expand Your Color Range Using Overprint Options
Combining ink colors in various percentages enables you to increase the variation of color in your design. This is because where inks overlap, additional colors are created. It also gives you more control over the range of colors you can apply to your design elements without the cost of adding ink colors.

For example, combining blue and yellow makes green, but by varying the percentage of blue and yellow ink colors you can provide an extremely wide range of greens. This is true for any two combined colors, such as red mixed with yellow, or blue mixed with red.

An Overprinting Workaround for Older CorelDRAW versions
While you can’t create custom multi-ink colors based on fixed color ink palettes with CorelDRAW like you can in other applications, you can still overprint the ink colors that you apply to objects. Before version X3, CorelDRAW didn’t display the final printed result of overprinted inks onscreen making it difficult to anticipate overprinted colors.

If you still happen to be using an older version of CorelDRAW (12 or earlier), you can easily create your own test sheet to give you an idea of what two or more combined colors will look like when overprinted. This solution involves applying transparency to simulate the overprinting effect. In the example below, a collection of objects with applied percentage tints of spot color inks shows the results of two overprinting spot color inks.

To create your own color overprinting guide for your specific ink colors, follow these steps:

  1. Create a series of 9 vertical and 9 horizontal rectangles arranged in an overlapping weave pattern as shown in the previous example.
  2. Using the Color docker, apply your spot color inks in graduated tints of 10 percent increments (from 10 to 100 percent).
  3. Select all of the rectangles in one color ink set and press Shift+Page Up to bring them to the front.
  4. Select the Interactive Transparency Tool and choose Uniform from the Transparency Type list in the Property Bar. In the Transparency of Lens to a Spot Color dialog, click OK (shown below).
  5. In the Property Bar, choose Subtract from the Transparency Operation list and adjust the Starting Transparency slider to 0, as shown below. The resulting transparency will provide you with a relative facsimile of the combined inks where the spot color inks overlap.

Your new overprinting guide will serve as a visual reference to help you make an informed decision on which ink combinations and tints to specify for your overprinting. To complete the overprinting operation, you’ll need to make duplicates of your objects, apply your spot color tints to each object, and apply overprint options to the object that you have ordered to the front of the arrangement.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Select the object that you’d like to print in multiple inks. Open the Color docker (shown below) by choosing Window > Dockers > Color.
  2. In the Color docker, click the Show Color Palettes button and choose your fixed color palette from the palette list.
  3. Using the Color docker, click the Fill and/or the Outline button to apply the first of the spot color inks you’ve selected to the object in your document that you want to print in multiple inks. Set the specific color ink tint using the slider control.
  4. Press the “+” key on your numeric keypad to duplicate the object in precisely the same page position and ordered in front of the original.
  5. Use the Color docker to apply the second spot color ink and tint to the duplicate object.
  6. When an object’s fill and/or outline is set to overprint, the ink colors you specify will combine with the ink colors of objects layered below to create additional colors. In CorelDRAW, you can apply overprint options to specific objects using the context menu or by choosing Edit > Overprint Fill and/or Edit > Overprint Outline (shown below).

If your design includes objects that you’ve specified in very dark inks (such as black) and these objects overlap objects applied with lighter colored inks, you should also consider applying manual overprint options to these objects.

Preview Your Ink Colors
You can use CorelDRAW’s Print dialog and Print Preview feature to verify that your ink colors will correctly separate when printed to a compatible PostScript printer. To check your ink color separations, open the Print dialog, click the Separations tab, and browse the ink list (shown below). You can also use options in this dialog to change spot color screening angles by clicking the Advanced Settings button. Since you’re using object-specific overprint options, be sure to select the Preserve Document Overprints option.

Paying for the cost of adding inks to your publishing project is a worthwhile investment if you maximize your color opportunities and take advantage of your CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 resources. Converting photos into spot color duotones, making use of color styles, and combining spot color inks through overprinting are some valuable strategies that you can use to speed your design process and maximize your color opportunities.

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Steve Bain is an award-winning illustrator and designer, and author of nearly a dozen books including CorelDRAW The Official Guide.


5 responses to “Cut Down Your Color Printing Cost without Sacrificing Your Color Options

  1. theenglishpaperstudent

    nice tutorial! My experience with black & white photos has always worked best with sepia toning; the other colors such as green or blue never seem to cut it.

  2. I have CorelDRAW X4 and a single color press. I want to print the black then the red. How do I separate the colors when I print?

    • Hmmm. Set up the file using your specific spot ink colors and use the Separations tab of the Print dialog to select the ink colors to print to film used to make the plates. It’s an involved process which requires much more detail than I can convey in a few short sentences. I would recommend you take a course or workshop on digital prepress, offset printing or similar or picking up a really good book on the subject.

  3. Nice tutorial, now I can make my beer labels look more professional!

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