Why use light tints

by: Stephen Crichton on

So you have seen printers that use Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, and some that include Light Cyan, Light Magenta and Light Black (Grey) but has anyone told you why?

Too often I hear people requesting a printer with CMYKLcLm believing that that ink configuration will provide a larger colour gamut (greater range of achievable colour).
Unfortunately this is not the case. 
The lighter tints are literally just that, a lighter version of the full colour e.g light cyan is the light tint of cyan.
This will not give you a larger colour range, but rather allow you to have a soother appearance in light tones within your image.
See graphic below.

Here is a gradient made from pure black ink ranging from 100% ink coverage to 0% ink coverage.
If printed using black ink only, the black ink will start at 100% and gradually decrease until no ink is printed at 0%. If you were to look closely in the light range of the print e.g 40% down, you will see black dots separated with a lot of white space in between. From about arms length the print looks fine but up close the 'grainy' appearance may not meet you printing standards.

See portion 'B' in above image.

If you print the same image with black and light black, at the 40% - 30% range the black starts to back off dramatically and the light black kicks in and will eventually begin to back off also at it gets closer to 0%, leaving you with a print that looks good from a distance and is much more smooth in appearance when viewed up close.

See portion 'A' in above image.

So why choose Light tints?
- Your printed graphics are small and are viewed up close like name tags and product labels.
- You print images that contain light colours, skin tones or clouds.
- You print onto very smooth stock (banner and canvas products 
often have a texture that make it difficult to see individual ink dots) 
The light tints in these examples will give you a smoother appearance.

Why do so many printers use only CMYK then?
Although large format printers can print small graphics, most people use them to print larger images that are viewed from a distance (1m+) such as building signage, vehicle graphics, banners and road signs. At these distances the print looks just as good as it would if it used light tints.
Due to CMYK using less ink in light tones it is a little cheaper to run and can often print at higher speeds.

Which configuration is best for you?
Speak to your printer supplier and ask for their recommendation based upon the type of printing you want to do. 
Prepare a file that contains images of varying tones and send to your supplier for some printed samples with light tints and without.
Request the cost and speed comparison between the CMYK print the print with light tints.
Ask around for opinions from others in your industry.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us.

Please note the black gradient example above can also be printed using CMY. I have not coved that in this post but will discuss it in an upcoming post.