Perhaps you’ve paid a lot of money to have a nice logo designed for your business. The design is great and the colors are just what you wanted… at least when you see them on your computer screen. But then you print some business cards, or a flyer, and the colors look nothing like what you had imagined! What gives? Below is a very basic breakdown and explanation of colors in the design/print industry, that will (hopefully) educate you a little and perhaps keep you from throwing away money on bad prints.
There are 3 types of colors that are used in the world of design and print: RGB, CMYK, and Pantone (PMS).
RBG stands for Red, Green, and Blue. These are the basic colors used for screen or monitor displays; anything you see on your computer, cell phone, tablet or digital camera screen is in the RGB color mode.
CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. These are the four colors of the ink used in process color printing.
Pantone colors are part of the Pantone Matching System (that’s where PMS comes from). In this system, inks are made into very specific colors and printed in a color book. Using a Pantone color means you’ll get a perfect and consistently printed color.
What Does This All Mean?
Unfortunately, knowing all this still doesn’t make the design and printing process easy. Very simply, you’re viewing your logo on a computer screen (in RGB), but a printer will take that file and print it in CMYK, which accounts for the color shift. The best way to prevent this is to have your logo designed using Pantone color. You can look through the Pantone color book with your designer to ensure that you know exactly what your brand’s color will look like when printed. If it’s crucial that you have an exact color match, you can print the Pantone color, though it will be more expensive since it’s treated as a 5th color on the printing press. If a very close color match is good enough (and it usually is), your designer can convert the Pantone color to RGB (for your website or digital advertisements) or CMYK (for printing business cards, flyer, mailers, etc.).
- 3 color modes: RGB (screens), CMYK (print), and Pantone (color matching system).
- Have your designer use Pantone colors when creating your brand! Those colors can be converted to RGB or CMYK as needed, and will ensure the most consistent color for your brand.