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Chapter 12. Channels > Understanding Spot Channels

Understanding Spot Channels

Remember when you got your first box of crayons? I'll bet you that it was the standard-issue eight-color box from Crayola. I remember mine vividly. I thought it was great—that is, until the rich kid across the street swaggered over and showed me his box. It was the gigantic 64-color model with the built-in sharpener. My box was limited to black, brown, blue, red, violet, orange, yellow, and green, which seemed adequate until I discovered Periwinkle, Prussian Blue, and Raw Sienna in his huge set. Well, you can think of spot channels as a way to get all those colors that don't come in the standard (CMYK) box.

It all comes down to this: If you are planning to print an image using inks other than (or in addition to) cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (such as fluorescent orange), you'll need to use one or more spot channels. These channels will allow you to paint with PANTONE colors (the most popular brand of spot color ink). Spot channels also allow your image to look correct onscreen and print correctly from both Photoshop and your page-layout program. But I should warn you before we get too far into this: If you are not actually purchasing a PANTONE ink, but would just like to simulate the look of PANTONE colors, then stay in RGB or CMYK mode and stay away from spot channels. Instead, just click on your foreground color and then click the Custom button to get to the PANTONE color picker. But beware that simulations are just that—the closest possible approximation—and they'll use a combination of the regular CMYK inks, which will cause those colors to look different from what they look like in a PANTONE swatchbook. But if you are really purchasing a PANTONE ink, then continue, and I'll show you how to get it set up.


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