How often have you encountered a business where the website colours don’t quite match the business cards, the brochures are different to the shop signage … I could keep going but you get the point.
It’s because the wrong colour model was used.
In this post I am going to quickly summarise the 4 main colour models – CMYK, RGB, HEX, PMS (Pantone) and help you understand how they should be used to ensure you get consistent results. With a little bit of knowledge you will be able to communicate better with designers and printers and avoid costly mistakes in your business.
- A colour on screen will look entirely different when printed (and vice versa).
- RGB and HEX are used for online/screens – they are created using light.
- CMYK and Pantone are used for printed materials – they are created using ink pigments.
- Your branding elements (including photos) should be available in both (print and screen) options and used accordingly to ensure consistency.
- If you don’t have the right software or are confused, a Graphic Designer will be able to assist with conversions or check if your files are correctly set up.
CMYK (4 colour process)
- Most popular printing method
- Consists of cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black)
- 4 colours of ink used in traditional printing
- Colours are defined in a 0-100% (e.g C=75 M=68 Y=67 K=90)
- The 4 colours are combined 1 layer at a time over multiple runs to create the desired colour
- To get a rich black in print (often called True Black) use C=75 M=68 Y=67 K=90 instead of C=0 M=0 Y=0 K=100
- Consists of red, green and blue
- Used to display colours on screens (e.g computers, mobile phones, televisions etc)
- RGB offers a wider range of colours than capable in CMYK – in some instances you may not be able to achieve a comparable CMYK print.
- Colours are defined using 0-255 scale (e.g R=48 G=40 B=127)
#HEX (hexadecimal colours / Hex colour codes)
- Used in web design / development
- RGB colours are represented in hexadecimal format which browsers can read
- Hex numbers start with a # and are followed by 6 letters or numbers
Pantone (PMS / Spot Colour)
- Pantone is a standardised colour matching system
- It was designed to help designers and printers specify and control colours in printed projects
- Predominantly used for brand / corporate identities to ensure the logos and main elements are consistent across multiple mediums and printers.
- Most common referenced colours are from Pantone Solids Colour System
- Identified by a 3-4 digit number followed by a C, M or U
- The best (and most accurate) way to choose a Pantone colour is via Pantone charts.
- Be aware that printing on different materials (fabric, vinyl, paper etc) will give different colour outcomes.