Designers who care will often request a drawdown in order to check what a PMS color will look like when printed on a particular paper.

All papers have additives to give them their shade. Pulp has to be bleached to get it to white. Color additives are involved in getting to the required color. Compare several different “white” papers and you’ll quickly see that white doesn’t mean just one thing. There’s a color gradation within the world of book papers from bright white, though white, natural, and cream. Within that simple scheme there’s an infinite potential range: but paper mills will make to a constant recipe delivering a few standard shades.

PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors are presented in a swatch book printed generally on two papers, a coated white and an uncoated white. These are quite white whites. The swatch will give you a good idea of what your job will look like when printed on a white stock as a solid in this or that PMS color. What you can’t know from the swatch book is what effect the color of the paper you plan to use will have on the ink you select.  100% PMS 184 on the white of the swatch book, may look significantly different from a 20% tint of PMS 184 on a cream stock.

When a drawdown is requested, a can of PMS ink is opened and a spatula which has been dipped in it is then dragged (drawn) down a sheet of the paper to be used on press. You can see this being done in the ink-making video below. I sometimes wonder what effect this foreknowledge has: but I suppose the cautious designer will perhaps be assured of not discovering, when opening the advance copy, that those second color text boxes have turned into an ugly muddy mess.

Drawdown has of course nothing to do with lay down, which is that (huge we hope) number of books moved out into the channels before publication. Excessive lay down can lead to mark down, though in our business that’ll no doubt be preceded by massive returns. In pre-digital days the flats for that marked-down book might have been subjected to tear down, before restripping for a smaller sheet-fed press. Is it odd that it was always paste up not paste down? I guess we would paste down an individual bit of repro as part of a paste up. A paste-down is actually that part of the endpaper which is pasted onto the inside of the case.