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Color: CMYK, PMS, RGB… What does it all mean?

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Color

colorWe love color. It’s exciting – and fun to work with but if you’re a novice at creating marketing materials all the color jargon may be hard to figure out. If you’ve been around designers or printers at all, you’ve likely heard conversation around CMYK, RGB and PMS. What does that all mean – especially that PMS one… Here is some information for you to make complex color theories easier…

 

CMYK – this stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. The four colors used in the printing process. If you were reading this piece in a printed magazine, you would be reading it in a CMYK color space. In “four-color process” (CMYK) printing, primary colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) are mixed together to produce most of the colors that you see in  magazines and color books.  CYMK is what the vast majority of commercial printers do but isn’t always color accurate and colors may deviate from job to job.

 

PMS – this stands for Pantone Matching System. This is a way to select a very certain color and ensure its consistency throughout your printed piece or from print job to print job. These specific color formulas will reproduce accurately in print. Instead of simulating colors by combining primary colors, spot (PMS) colors are pre-mixed with existing and published color formulas.  “Spot” colors refer to the actual printing process by which they are applied. Some PMS colors are not reproducible using CMYK so if exact color is a must – PMS is the only way to go.

It is possible to have spot colors that actually have no color to them at all. Spot varnishes are glossy or dull varnishes applied to specific areas in a printed piece to achieve specific results. A quick tidbit, Coca Cola as an example will never EVER print its brand coca cola red in CMYK in any of its packaging, because they want to always have that pure bold red.

 

RGB - this refers to Red, Green, Blue and is a term for on screen color. If you are reading this, you are reading an RGB display via your computer.  The three colors that create every other tone of color that is visible on your screen. There is no black or white ‘color’. Neither is there yellow or purple. They are all a combination of red, green and blue.

“Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.”    Claude Monet

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