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What’s the difference? CYMK vs RGB vs PMS

August 23, 2018


What’s the difference? CYMK vs RGB vs PMS


Using the right colours is crucial to establishing your brand’s identity and ensuring a memorable experience for anyone crossing paths with it. Consistency is key here, because that’s how we create connections to certain brands. Think of a brand like Coca-Cola—doesn’t that bright red always come to mind? That connection you’ve made between the brand and the colour says it all. 


It can be hard to decipher the differences between the different colour methods, especially when it comes to deciding what is best for print vs. digital. We break it down for you below. 




CMYK is primarily used for printed materialsand is reference to the four ink colours applied to colour printing:


C- Cyan 

M- Magenta 

Y- Yellow

K – Black


CMYK colours are mixed during the printing process, which can sometimes cause inconsistencies in colour during printing. The colour could also slightly differ depending on different printers. It’s usually not a huge change, but it’s something to keep in mind when printing things such as logos, flags or materials with specific colour branding. 




RGB means Red, Green, and Blue. These are the colours you see whenever you look at photos on a digital screen. The different colours are a mixture of these three shades. In the colour printing process, these tones must be changed into CMYK.


RGB is projected against a screen using light, therefore these colours mixed together produce white, and lighter colour tones, while absence of these colours produces black. It is good to remember that different monitors can be calibrated differently, meaning that an RGB colour on one screen might look slightly different on another.




PMS means Pantone Matching System, which is a universal colour matching system that is used for consistent and accurate colour.  


Unlike RGB and CMYK, Pantone colours are created with pre-mixed ink, resulting in consistent and vibrant colours. 


You can browse the Pantone colours to identify the numbered code for the colour you want, which will remain the exact same when printed every single time. This eliminates discrepancies between digital design and the printed product, even if from different printers.


Since Pantone colours are intended to stand as is, the inks are opaque. This means designers are unable to use transparencies with Pantone colours. To use transparency effects with a Pantone colour, the CMYK equivalent of the colour must be used.




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