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Working in Color in Adobe InDesign CS3

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InDesign gives you, right from the first day you use it, all the color controls you could ever wish for. Sandee Cohen shares the details of working with color in Adobe InDesign CS3.
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When I first started in advertising, only the senior creative teams could work in color. The junior teams were assigned only black-and-white ads. Later on they might be able to work on a two-color job, but the four-color work was handled by senior art directors.

Fortunately, you’re not limited by such constraints. InDesign gives you, right from the first day you use it, all the color controls you could ever wish for. However, with that power comes some responsibility.

When you define colors and use them on your pages, you are wearing two hats. Your first hat is that of a designer who looks at the aesthetics of the page and then applies colors. This is where you have fun with your creativity.

Your second hat is that of production manager. Wearing that hat you need to understand some of the principles of color and printing color documents. You also need to make sure your colors are defined so they print correctly.

The Basics of Color

Here’s a quick primer to help you understand what happens when you define and apply colors in your InDesign layout, as well as other programs.

Type of color

How it is used

How it is created

Comments

CMYK

CMYK stands for the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks that are combined to create other colors. Also called process color, this is the primary type of color used in color printing. Most magazines and brochures are printed using the four process color inks.

Use the Color panel set to CMYK or the New Color Swatch dialog box set to CMYK or the Color Picker in the CMYK mode.

Color images are saved in the CMYK mode before they are imported into InDesign.

RGB

RGB stands for the red, green, and blue lights that are used in computer monitors to display colors. Because RGB colors are based on light waves, not inks, there will always be a slight difference between colors defined as RGB and those defined as CMYK.

RGB colors can be used to define colors for documents that will be displayed onscreen. But you should not use them for print work.

Use the Color panel set to RGB or the New Color Swatch dialog box set to RGB or the Color Picker in the RGB mode.

Most scanners save images as RGB files. You must use a program such as Adobe Photoshop to convert those images to CMYK.

LAB

The LAB is another light-based color model that uses luminance (L) combined with the green to red (A) plus yellow to blue (B). As with RGB, you should not define print colors using this system.

Use the Color panel set to LAB or the New Color Swatch dialog box set to LAB or the Color Picker in the LAB mode.

 

Spot colors

Spot colors are specialty colors that are printed without using the four process color inks. For instance, a metallic gold in a brochure is printed using metallic gold ink, not a combination of CMYK colors.

Spot colors can be mixed to display colors that could not be created using simple CMYK colors.

Use the New Color Swatch dialog box set to Spot.

Spot colors can be defined by the user or you can use the commercial spot color libraries produced by companies such as Pantone and Dicolor and Toyo.

Other names for spot colors are specialty, second color, fifth or sixth color, or flat colors.

Tints

Tints are colors that have been screened so that only a percentage of their color appears on the page.

Tints can be created from named colors using the New Tint dialog box.

 

Mixed inks

Mixed inks are combinations of at least one spot color and another spot or process color.

Mixed inks can be created using the Swatches panel menu. One spot color must also have been previously defined.

Mixed Ink Groups are combinations of different percentages for Mixed ink colors.

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