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  • What Is Grayscale Printing?

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    Digital Printing

    Many people mistakenly believe that their printing projects can only be published in either full color or black and white. But grayscale printing, not black and white printing, is the preferred noncolor option that is used in both commercial and personal printing projects.

    And while full-color printing provides a more accurate, vivid representation of photographs, graphics, and even text, printing without using bright colors is a critical option and is even the preferred printing choice in many situations.

    So what exactly is grayscale printing and when is the best time to use it? Let’s look at what you need to know about grayscale printing and when you should be using it in your printing projects.

    What Is Grayscale Printing?

    When an image is transferred onto another surface, the printing process can be transformed from any color combination into black, white, and shades of gray called grayscale. Grayscale printing uses black ink to create an image that appears to be made up of black, white, and a variety of gray shades.

    By using different concentrations of black ink, a wide range of shades of the color gray are produced giving the printing technique its name. Images that are printed using grayscale printing have an excellent definition as grayscale can produce crisp, defined pictures and graphics utilizing slight variations on the gray hue.

    Full-color printing uses layers of different inks to produce all color shades, but grayscale only uses black ink to represent color variations. The black ink can be used in as little concentration as 0% to represent white to 100% black.

    This continuous scale of white to black produces all of the variations of gray needed to provide image depth similar to the way full-color printing appears, just without the color variation.

    Grayscale Printing vs. Black and White Printing

    Based on their basic descriptions, grayscale printing and black and white printing sound very similar to each other. However, the way they look is actually very different. Grayscale printing uses only black ink, just like black and white printing does.

    But grayscale uses smaller to larger concentrations of black ink to depict a range of gray tones when printing images regardless of what colors are in the original picture or graphic. Black and white printing, on the other hand, prints everything past a certain threshold of darkness as the color black and everything else is left to print as white.

    This binary color approach of black and white printing presents images in much less detail than those done in grayscale, but black and white is a common choice for text printing as this method enhances the crispness of the way text is presented.

    When to Use Grayscale Printing

    Just like black and white printing is best used in printing projects that are mainly text, there are times when using grayscale printing is ideal as well. Since grayscale provides a well-defined representation of photos and graphic designs, many printing projects can be completed using grayscale for an effective and attractive outcome.

    Many businesses choose to use grayscale printing as an excellent alternative to full-color printing at all times. The three most common times to print using grayscale are when your project is mainly informational, when you are using standard documents, or when saving money is important.

    1 For Basic Projects: Many types of projects, like informational booklets, instruction sheets and product manuals are ideal for using grayscale. Even though they may contain images, they are usually basic in nature, so full-color printing is not required.

    2 On No Frills Documents: While corporate logos are usually in color, many businesses choose to print in grayscale on everyday documents like letterhead, envelopes, forms and other simple documents.

    Since grayscale can accurately portray the look and feel of most artwork with its wide range of gray hues in addition to black and white, choosing to use a three-toned version of a brand logo is a good way for businesses to be able to brand all of their communication and documents without having to invest in full-color printing on everything.

    Many of these types of documents are used in high volumes, like forms and envelopes, so printing in grayscale makes sense for many businesses.

    3 To Save Money: Since full-color printing can be expensive, many businesses and individuals choose to use grayscale to save money. For some projects and documents, the cost of using color printing is not within budget, so using a less expensive printing style like grayscale can be a great option.

    When to Use Full Color Printing

    Even if saving money is a priority, there are some situations when using black, gray and white printing will not be the best option. As a good rule of thumb, grayscale is not the best option to utilize when you are promoting a business or brand, when the look of the project is dependent on how colors appear, or the unique or specific colors are intended to provoke a certain effect.

    1 On Promotional Items: Anytime a product is used to promote a business, the branding should be consistent with all other uses of the brand’s look, feel, logo and colors. While some seasonal alterations to a brand might be used, like using a pink version of a brand’s logo during October to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month, consistent branding is important. Whether your business gives out freebies like water bottles, notepads, calendars, or some other promotional item, using a color version of your brand helps to increase name recognition.

    Using a grayscale logo can confuse customers, clients and the community because brand awareness is tied to a specific color combination used in the brand. The grayscale version won’t exactly match the normal branding look, so using it for promotional purposes can actually backfire instead of helping your company’s advertising efforts. When color printing is not in the budget for promotional products, many companies develop a simple black-and-white version of their brand to use in these situations.

    2 To Attract Attention: Just like promotional items, anytime a printing project will be used to attract attention, full-color printing should be used instead of grayscale. Informational brochures that are the first contact with potential customers, advertising postcards and presentation folders created to win over new clients are good examples of when full-color printing is best.

    Not only will the branding look great in its intended color combinations, but brightly colored images, graphics, and text are all more memorable than black, gray and white. Printing projects in bright or brand-specific colors along with full-color photographs are all going to be much more impressive and are sure to leave a positive lasting impression about your product, service, or business.

    3 In Photography or Art Projects: Art books, calendars featuring beautiful photography, or projects that focus on artistic creations are all best printed in full color to present the imagery closest to the artist’s original vision.

    Grayscale printing is not recommended for use in photography books or art projects that were originally designed in full color, because even though grayscale can beautifully capture an image, the impact that different hues have on a picture or image is hard to replicate without using color.

    Printing Your Project

    When you are ready to get started with your next project, the next step is to partner with a trusted printing company like Dazzle Printing. Whether you need to print a brochure, business cards, or a whole book, Dazzle Printing can help you transform your concept into a reality with a gorgeous final product that you will love.


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