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Create a spot channel to apply a custom color in your Photoshop file

Added on Tuesday 17th of February 2009 01:07 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


As you look for ways to trim costs, you’ve probably cut back on 4-color printing. But don’t toss color by the wayside completely. We’ll show you how easy it is to create spot color channels in your Photoshop files for maximum color impact and minimum cost investment!


To add spot colors to your Photoshop files, we’ll:

     Make a selection in our Photoshop document to which we’ll apply a spot color.

     Create a new spot channel from our selection and specify a custom color.

       Save the file in one of the few formats that allows the spot color to output as such on a commercial printing press.


Spot colors are custom-mixed inks you can use instead of, or in addition to, process colors on a commercial press. You might use spot colors to design a company logo so you can ensure a color match. Or, perhaps you want to save money on printing costs. A spot color prints on just one plate, whereas process colors require four plates. Less ink equals less expense. Alternatively, you might use a custom-mixed ink to achieve a color in print that’s beyond the CMYK gamut or to increase a process color’s density. Whatever your reason for wanting to use spot colors in a Photoshop document, we’ll show you how to accomplish your goal.


Set a perfect example

Using spot colors is easy; getting them to print correctly is the tricky part. Photoshop separates spot colors onto all of the different channels in every image color mode other than Duotone. Converting spot colors to CMYK isn't unheard of, but it totally defeats the many reasons for using custom-mixed inks. You can, however, get spot colors in a CMYK image to separate onto their own plates. Follow along as we create a working document to which we’ll apply a spot color plate.


To create a new sample document in preparation for spot color printing:

1.       Launch Photoshop and choose File > New or press [command]N ([Ctrl]N in Windows) to open the New dialog box.

2.      Name your document and size it at 2 x 2 inches with a 300 pixels/inch resolution.

3.      Choose CMYK Color from the Color Mode pop-up menu and choose White from the Background Contents pop-up menu.

4.      Click OK to create a new document in which to work.


Get in shape

Now that you have a new document, we’ll show you how to add a custom shape as the foundation for your spot color.


To add a custom shape with a spot color to your document:

1.       Choose the Custom Shape tool from the Tools palette.

2.      Select the Shape Layers button on the tool Options bar, as shown in Figure A.

3.      Click on the Shape thumbnail to open the Custom Shape picker and select Hedra 2, also displayed in Figure A.

4.      To eliminate all color in your object, click on the Color box to open the Color Picker and, as shown in Figure B, enter 0 in the C, M, Y, and K text boxes. Then, click OK.






5.      Hold down the [shift] key (to maintain the object's proportions) and drag the Custom Shape tool on your canvas to create the object shown in Figure C. Photoshop automatically adds a new shape layer in the Layers palette, as shown in Figure D.

6.      If necessary, select the Move tool from the Tools palette and reposition the shape in the center of your canvas.






Channel a spot color

Now it's time to select the shape and then create a spot channel to which you can assign a custom color.


To create a spot channel and assign a custom color:


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