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4 colour, 6 colour or more...why more inks could cost you less.

October 03, 2019 3 min read

As digital printing has evolved and become more inventive in their print capacities, ink colour options and the number of cartridges is something we often get asked about. What are the benefits of a 6 colour over a 4 colour printer? Well, it seems there is more to it than you might think.

First, colour gamut.

Having certain difficult-to-4-colour-create shades is made much much simpler
with a dedicated colour on tap.

Orange, green, red: all can be added to the arsenal of certain manufacturers printers and if your customer has a bright orange or deep red logo, colour consistency in your output can be paramount.  A 6 or 8 colour system with the specific colour cartridge will always create a print that’s more accurate than one that mixes from the 4 colours. Mimaki claims that its 8 colour machine can replicate 94.8% of all Pantone colours. Their 8-colour machine runs CMYK plus Orange, Light Black, Light Cyan and Light Magenta, along with options to replace two of the additional colours with White or even White and Metallic. The new Roland VG2 Series now also boasts an 8-colour set-up, with the option to replace one of these additional colours with a White ink.

Colour graduations

With areas in the print of light colour moving to a deeper darker shade, the addition of the light cyan, light magenta or light black (is that not grey?) cartridges make for super smooth transitions. In skin tones where there are multiple shades of the same colour, this can be doubly important.

Having the light colour options will ensure that your people prints and any pastel-like or very light shades hit the mark. One thing to be aware when comparing machines is the head size.  A difference in pico-litre technology can make all the difference when comparing graduations and ‘art’ type of work.
An inkjet head that can lay down the finest dot of ink will always outperform one that can’t. And that goes for a 4 colour against a 6 - check similar nozzle sizes when doing your homework between machines.

Efficiency and economy

With dedicated cartridges in a 6, 8 or 12 colour machine, it should use less ink
to make those specific colours. Where a 4 colour machine has to mix several inks to reach the right tone, more colour options should mean less ink used and those inks used with greater efficiency. However, is not quite as simple as that. To make certain colours, the printer may still select a combination from a number of cartridges. It should use less of these though to create the right shade as it has more options to pick from. It’s a bit of a minefield, I know, and if your priority is for the least expensive machine to purchase and run, a 6 or 8 colour is probably going to cost more than a 4 colour variant. It is more due to the quality of print output where the 6+ colour machines stand tall.

Colour profiling

The one element where we have seen major benefits regardless of the number of ink cartridges is in specific system profiling. Having dedicated printer profiles for the media can be a real game-changer when you’re looking to get the most out of colour reproduction.

It may be that to get closer to the shades needed, it's not down to a new machine - it could be down to tweaking the one you already have. To talk to us about profiling, colour management, 4, 6, 8 colour and more call 01772 250 207, email or contact us here. Alternatively, look us up on social media.

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