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Using Hexachrome Color

written by: •edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 4/27/2009

While it may not be an everyday color choice for most desktop publishers, the hexachrome color space offers a more vivid range of colors than the standard CMYK gamut does.

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    Process colors, spot colors, RGB colors and web safe colors; what more does a desktop publisher need to know about color theory? Well, if they deal with higher end jobs at any point, a primer in the hexachrome color space may be in order.

    While many desktop publishers will probably never run into hexachrome color, it’s a good idea to be familiar with this color space in case you deal with a client who requests that you use it for their print job. Customers using hexachrome usually require a high level of vibrancy and color accuracy in their printed pieces.

    Hexachrome color was developed by the Pantone Corporation in the nineties as a means of expanding color range. It offers a wider range of possibilities than traditional CMYK (full color or process color) does.

    While conventional process color utilizes four inks (cyan, magenta, yellow and black), hexachrome color features six different inks. In addition to the CMYK inks, the hexachrome process uses green and orange inks. It should be noted as well that the hexachrome versions of cyan, magenta, and yellow differ somewhat from the CMYK equivalents of these inks.

    The result is a color gamut that is much wider than that found in CMYK. Hexachrome is much more effective than traditional spot color in reproducing specific spot colors, often eliminating the need to run a Pantone spot color in conjunction with process colors in a job. This makes it particularly popular in the packaging industry.

    One of the biggest challenges of working with the hexachrome color space comes in proofing the job. Because it is such a specialized printing process, it is difficult to run proofs on standard printers. If you are running a hexachrome job, talk to your printer about your proofing options.

    It should also be noted that not all page layout and graphics programs support Hexachrome printing. Check your software documentation to see if this option is available to you.