Print safe colors and CMYK values

Robert LanePrinting

print safe colors and cmyk values

I bring you this list of print safe colors for achieving predictable color results from the CMYK values you choose. I have worked and designed advertising for newspapers heavily now for the past several years. Newsprint is not very bright. Soy based ink works, but registration can be an issue depending on the age of the printing technology being used.

When I first started, I would design advertising with subtle textures and complex colors. Colors that used three and four inks to make up their composition. After less than stellar results, I set out to find a set of primary print safe colors that would work well with better predictability.

The restrictions in newsprint have led me to this point, but higher quality printing can also present some of the same complications. High quality offset printing on modern sheet fed presses would be ideal for every print job. I obviously don’t live in a graphic designers dream world. Which is also another reason I put together this list. You might also use the CMYK values below for simple primary colors in print. These colors can also be a launching point for a more nuanced color palette.

Primary colors with CMYK values
The reality of CMYK print safe colors

The key to any printing project is the substrate. Substrate is the material on which you are printing. So anything from paper and cardstock to plastics, films and foils. There really is no substitute for talking with the prepress department at your commercial print shop. Print safe colors are best achieved after you have seen a proof before production begins.

I wrote an article about achieving true blue in print. Blue is an especially tricky color when it comes to print outcomes.

Quick Question:
I’d love to know if this super simple chart is helpful. What sources do you have for picking CMYK values in your print design projects?
About the Author

Robert Lane


Freelance website designer with an interest to help small businesses grow their online presence and amplify their message using social media through creative content creation.