Overprinting: Getting More Out Of Your Colors

Have you ever experienced an artist release, say a 5-color screen print, only to count the colors and reach a much higher number? Well, to achieve those extra colors that screen print might have been utilizing a technique called overprinting. Before we delve into overprinting though, let’s first talk paper. The paper, like overprinting, is also an unadvertised color. For example, a 5-color print is typically going to display at least six colors, counting the paper as a color. So there’s a bonus color right off the bat!

Overprinting in it’s simplest form is laying a color over two contrasting colors to achieve an extra “bonus” color. Inks are transparent by nature so imagine laying transparent lime green ink over a gray and white area. The lime green is going to print darker over the gray area and more true to form over the white area. In the Mule / Avett Noblesville Poster the overprint technique happens twice – first with the lime green and then with the cyan blue.



A good place to focus your eyes as you watch the above image is the Earth. Watch as the cyan blue covers the gray. The reason the Earth’s interior is darker isn’t because it’s a separate color, it’s because the cyan blue is overprinting the gray. This happens all over the print, although the Earth is probably the most noticeable at this scale. See if you can find other examples.

So to recap, let’s count the colors. Did you count 8? Pretty cool for a screen print advertised as only being 5-color.

Hope you guys enjoyed this little introduction into overprinting. If you’re digging this kind of stuff, let me know in the comments below and I will do more.  -CC




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