CMYK, RGB and PMS Colors Defined

You may have heard the terms RGB vs CMYK vs PMS in relation to color when asked to submit files for print, but you may not know what each acronym stands for—or, more importantly, why you should care. However, if you want your final design to look the way you intend, it’s imperative that you educate yourself on each of these color profiles and the difference between them.

What is RGB?

The RGB color profile is used exclusively in digital design, as it represents the same colors used in computer screens, televisions and mobile devices. Rather than ink, colors in the RGB color wheel are created by blending light itself. The letters RGB represent the different colors used to create different hues: Red, Green and Blue

RGB is used only for digital designs. In fact, any design created with an RGB color profile must be converted to CMYK or PMS colors before printing. As a rule of thumb, you should only use RGB when designing for the web.

What is CMYK?

The CMYK color model is often referred to as four-color process due to the fact that it utilizes four different colored inks to create an array of different hues. The name CMYK comes from the four colors applied during the printing process: Cyan, Magenta,Yellow and Key (Black)

The reason that black is referred to as “key” is because it is the color used in the key plate, which supplies the contrast and detail for the final image.

CMYK colors are mixed during the printing process itself, which can sometimes cause very slight inconsistencies in color throughout a printing run. It’s usually not a particularly perceptible change, but it’s something to keep in mind when using logos with specific color branding.

CMYK can create a wide range of colors, so it’s used primarily for full color printing. It provides the greatest amount of accuracy when printing designs that contain color photography. In fact, CMYK should be your first choice of printing methods for any design that utilizes four or more colors.

What is PMS?

PMS stands for Pantone Matching System, which is a universal color matching system used primarily in printing. Unlike RGB and CMYK, PMS colors are created with pre-mixed ink long before the image is actually produced, resulting in the most consistent color possible. Some tones may not accurately reproduce in four-color process, such as: Metallic colors, Neon colors, Navy Blue, Orange and Grey

In these cases, it is recommended to use PMS spot printing to color correct the limitations of CMYK printing. PMS is also used to ensure accurate brand coloring in design elements such as logos. Black-and-white or monochromatic designs look their best in PMS, as the ink produces much richer variations in tones.

However, since PMS ink is pre-mixed, it must be applied one color at a time. If you want to create a print design using only PMS colors, it is recommended to only use one to three colors at a time. Otherwise,you will greatly increase both the cost of your print media and the likelihood that the ink will crack.

Featured Service of the Month: Large Format Products

One of the many custom printed products that we offer is a variety of signage as well as table covers to help your company grab the attention of your target audience.

Some of our Large Format Product offerings and how they can be used are:

  • Retractable Banners in Floor and Tabletop options

Uses: Trade shows, presentations, hotels, banks, office lobbies and retail stores.

  • Banners for indoor and outdoor use

Uses: Special events, trade shows, sporting events and grand openings .

  • Standing Flags in a variety of sizes and shapes

Uses: Coffee shops or restaurants, sporting events or outside establishments like car dealerships or pharmacies, trade shows, conventions and expos.

  • Rigid Signs

Uses: Real estate, political elections, parking and yard signs, trade shows, construction zones, directional signs and golf tournaments.

  • Table Throws and Runners

Uses: Trade shows, school or organization event, business convention, corporate conference, hotel events, job fairs, storefronts and retail displays.

When you are ready to go BIG we would love to assist you with your project.