DNA polymerase zeta (pol ζ) participates in several DNA transactions in eukaryotic cells that increase spontaneous and damage-induced mutagenesis. To better understand this central role in mutagenesis in vivo, here we report the fidelity of DNA synthesis in vitro by yeast pol ζ alone and with RFC, PCNA and RPA. Overall, the accessory proteins have little effect on the fidelity of pol ζ. Pol ζ is relatively accurate for single base insertion/deletion errors. However, the average base substitution fidelity of pol ζ is substantially lower than that of homologous B family pols α, δ and ε. Pol ζ is particularly error prone for substitutions in specific sequence contexts and generates multiple single base errors clustered in short patches at a rate that is unprecedented in comparison with other polymerases. The unique error specificity of pol ζ in vitro is consistent with Pol ζ-dependent mutagenic specificity reported in vivo. This fact, combined with the high rate of single base substitution errors and complex mutations observed here, indicates that pol ζ contributes to mutagenesis in vivo not only by extending mismatches made by other polymerases, but also by directly generating its own mismatches and then extending them.