RGB vs. CMYK vs. PMS Pantone

1. RGB:

RGB Stands For: Red, Green, Blue. RGB is Used For: Any digital or electronic use.

RGB Details:
RGB is a blend of red, green and blue to create millions of other colours. The colours are developed by light and therefore is used on all digital medias such as your television, scanner, digital camera or computer screen (and therefore all things inside your computer screen such as a website, banner or email newsletter).

Because every screen is different in regards to how much light it produces and the shadows in the environment around that screen, RGB can appear differently depending on how you look at it. The RGB blend of blue within our Ethically Creative logo on this website likely looks slightly different to us in our office, than it does to you.

2. CMYK:

CMYK Stands For: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (black) / Also called ‘full colour’, ‘four colour’ or ‘process’. CMYK is Used For: Physically printing onto paper or other materials.

CMYK Details:
CMYK is the group of colours (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key [black]) that you’ll find inside your printer.

If you were to change the toner in your home or office printer you would most likely find either 4 cartridges of each colour, or two cartridges which is one key one and one colour one which contains all 3 colours. These colours then all blend together to make your printed image.

Depending on what program you are using, there will be a setting to convert your image from RGB to CMYK – this is always a good idea to do before printing it, so that you get a more accurate colour consistancy between screen and paper.

CMYK can vary from printer to printer, depending on their paper stocks and ink levels so your brand can often look a little different between items. For example, our Ethically Creative logo looks a little brighter when printed with our own environmentally-friendly printers onto gloss stock, but then darker on a recycled stock where the ink seeps in further. We’ve also experienced a slightly greener logo from another printing service and a slightly mauve colour from another service. This is completely normal for CMYK process.

3. PANTONE:

PMS Stands For: Pantone Matching System / Also called ‘Spot’. PMS is: A large selection of colours which are pre-mixed ink to ensure your colour is consistent, compared to CMYK which can vary between printers due to printer ink levels.

PMS Details:
Pantone is the name of a company who are the most popular providers of pre-mixed inks This means that your colour will look almost exactly the same, no matter what printer, in what country. This is preferred in larger companies who want their logo to appear the same everywhere.

For example, ‘Coca-Cola’ use a Pantone colour apparently between 185 and 485 red. It is actually a secret which exact number of red they use!

Not all professional printers have Pantone/Spot colours available, so be sure to find the best printer for you. Be aware that some printers may convert PMS to CMYK so if you specifically want PMS you should check this with them.

You can download a PDF list of the PMS colours + their closest CMYK values here. Or you can buy a professional PMS book from the Official Pantone website.