Understanding the Color Gamut

Reproducing vibrant, crisp colors is one of the cornerstones of printing. To get it right, it’s important to pay close attention to one particular aspect of print technology: the color gamut or the full range of colors that a printer can produce. Not all color gamuts are created equal. Below is what every print professional should know.


What Is the Color Gamut?

For most printers, the CMYK color gamut is at the core of color reproduction abilities. Also known as the four-color process, the CMYK color gamut consists of all the colors that can be produced by mixing the four basic ink colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. These four inks reproduce the appearance of a wide range of colors when printed as tiny dots in predefined combinations.


CMYK is the most common gamut for printers, but there are others defined by other colors. For instance, the primary colors of computer monitors are red, green, and blue, or the RGB color gamut. Careful color matching is required to capture the colors as accurately as possible when a project requires colors to be reproduced that have been seen on a computer monitor using the RGB gamut but printing is with the CMYK gamut.


However, the traditional four-color printing process doesn’t always produce perfect color matching for certain tones. The exact range can vary, but basic CMYK printing typically covers about 50% of Pantone colors, with more advanced printers reaching wider ranges. Some colors are harder to reproduce accurately than others with four-color technology. Bright oranges, greens, purples, some neons, and metallics tend to be less accurate, occasionally losing saturation or vibrance.


Expanding the Color Gamut

Savvy print professionals know that any challenge is also an opportunity for innovation! That’s where cutting-edge technologies come in, designed to extend the range of colors possible to produce. The technologies for expanding the color gamut include a few different techniques, such as ink colors beyond the basic four, multiple black and/or gray cartridges to allow for more gradual blending, and specialty inks to produce more accurate neon and metallic shades.


At Lithographics, our team utilizes HP’s proprietary technology to widen the color gamut on two different digital printers.


The HP Indigo 7900 Digital Press features 6-color IndiChrome printing for critical color matching. Instead of four standard ink heads, a fifth ink head is standard, and the printer allows for up to a six-color process for even more accurate color matching. HP IndiChrome technology incorporates special inks (including neon, white, and silver metallic) and spot colors to further expand the color range, and the HP IndiChrome Ink Mixing Service allows for true spot colors, covering up to 97% of the PANTONE® color range.


The HP Indigo 100K, the newest digital press addition to the Lithographics facility, leverages proprietary HP ElectroInk technology to upgrade four-color printing to an exceptionally wide color gamut, reproducing more colors than ever and carefully calibrating to ensure a quality and range of color comparable to offset printing.


Lithographics is committed to ensuring high-quality printing on every project, including exceptional color matching and high-quality, crisp print pieces. From digital printing and web offset to offset printing and more, we have a wide range solutions to help you reach your printing goals. Contact us today to learn more about our color capabilities and how we can bring your print projects to life!