What are the differences between spot color and four-color process screen printing?

Spot color is a method that uses pre-mixed inks and separate screens for each color during the printing process. It’s often used in situations where your design has a minimal number of solid colors, and color accuracy, especially when Pantone color matching is required, and/or when specialty inks are requested.

Four-color process printing or CMYK is a screen-printing process that utilizes a combination of four different inks to create full-color designs. The standard combination of inks used in this process consists of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK). In this printing process, percentages of these standard colors are used, adjusted, and printed on top of each other to create a wide array of colors, and reproduce, for example, photorealistic images.

Spot-color printing is often a more suitable method for beginning screen printers and many customer requests. Four-color process printing is an excellent method for designs that are going to require numerous colors or are not suitable for the spot-color method in terms of reproduction or cost. Just remember when attempting, process printing can require a degree of control, so make sure your equipment is ready for the order, and higher count screens can be your friend.

“Here’s to using the best method for the job!”

—Kaptain Kirk Clothing Co.

Kirk Harris

Kirk Harris

Kirk Harris currently serves as president of Atlanta-based Kaptain Kirk Clothing Co. Harris' love of apparel began with retail in the late '90s and in 2006 he founded his first clothing line. In 2012 his journey led him to apparel decoration and in 2014 he settled into his current position. He's reachable at, 404-396-7171, or

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