Starting off, CMYK or PMS?

Hi all,

I’m new here too and I have been looking for an answer to my question. I’ve tried looking for it but I cannot seem to get a satisfying answer in the search results.

I’ve managed to obtain an Adana 8x5 and am trying to make it print-ready. I’ve found many links and many site on the internet regarding polymer plate making, ink, paper, supplies etc.

As I was looking for ink when I found out rubber base ink is the way to go for the work I want to do. But they come in the 11 or so base PMS colors. This is fine of course, but I’m a bit anxious about investing in 11 PMS colors.

I could start off with some basic cmyk + white oil based colors (or does anyone know if these come in rubber base also?) and save me a bunch of money.

My question is: How did you start off? Did you buy 2 or more PMS colors for starters and along the way collected some extra PMS colors as assignments grew, thus budget grew.

Or did you start off with CMYK and invested in PMS further down the line?

thanks in advance!!

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There’d be no reason to buy CMYK inks unless you plan on printing 4 color separations, something that’s rarely done with letterpress. You’re better off starting with a few basic PMS colors. With just a few of them, you can mix many more. Not the entire Pantone book’s worth, but many.

you will either have to buy the colours you or clients want or only offer to clients colours that you can are able to mix due to colours you wish to start with, later extending your stock.if you are in Uk.
Caslon and T N Lawrence sell tubes of relief based ink, and Hawthorn Printmaking Supplies sell a very good range of 210 gms tins incl metallic and flourescent.

Start out with basic color theory: blue and yellow make green, blue and red make purple, yellow and red make orange, etc. Adjust with different percentages, or by adding black or opaque white.

You can do a lot with a few colors.

cheapest thing to do is just print black, no need for all the fancy colors, you don’t need to mix it either.

Wow! Thanks for the tips & tricks people. Very usefull information. I’m on it right away.


I bought a lot of PMS colors for a number of years and then started mixing my own. If you look into your Pantone book you might find the PMS colors you choose also are a combination in some degree of the colors listed here or at least it works for me. Pantone Yellow, Warm Red, Rhodamine Red, Process Blue, Rubine Red, Black, Reflex Blue, Process Cyan, Purple, Violet, 032 Red, and 021 Orange.

I bought a digital scale and use the setting of grams to mix PMS colors. On the left side of a color swatch in the PMS book is “parts”. However, on the right side is what I use to mix. The digital scale is a “Salter” it measures in LB’s and KG’s. If got instance Pantone 106 needs 12.5 Pantone Yellow I weight 12.5 grams of yellow, .2 of Warm Red, and 87.3 of Trans White.

This system has worked for me with the exception of Black which I start with less than prescribed.

Inky Lips Letterpress

If you are just starting out, and don’t need commercial-grade PMS color matching, you might consider going with a basic set of Black, Yellow, Red, Blue, and maybe transparent White. A nice dark brown and one of the matallics (gold or silver) might also go a long way. This should be enough to cover you for years.