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How To Avoid Colour Confusion

Colour types: The difference between RGB, CMYK & Pantone

There are different colour types, and which one you use for your design will impact the print quality. Using the wrong colour type could mean that your artwork prints a completely different colour! Here’s how to get it right.


Colour types: CMYK

CMYK stands for cyan, magenta and yellow. With these three colours, it is not possible to create any colour darker than brown. Therefore, black (key) is added. The colour base for CMYK consists of all colours in the colour spectrum. Any artwork for printing must be submitted in CMYK – the printer makes use of the light-absorbing cyan, magenta and yellow ink, which are mixed used various techniques. CMYK printers place the colours on top of the print so the reflecting light is lost. Therefore, the colours in the print result come out darker in comparison to the colours displayed on a computer screen. This is why files for printing must be sent in CMYK colours, as opposed to RGB.


Colour types: RGB

RGB stands for red, green and blue. With light as the starting point, very bright colours can be created with this colour combination. For example, a screen is black in appearance when switched off. When it is switched on, light is added to create colours. RGB is best used for artwork designed for screen display.


Colour types: Pantone

Pantone (also known as PMS) is a company that has defined over 1100 colours, each with their own identifying number. With these numbers, it is possible to match colours across the world. Pantone colours are commonly used for logo designs and branding. The colours in this colour type are not easily reproduced using CMYK. They are acquired using 15 base pigments to include black and white. By mixing pigments, the Pantone colours can be created.


Tips for avoiding colour confusion:

  1. Compose your print in CMYK or PMS
  2. Know the colour codes of your most important colours
  3. Minimalise the use of blues and purples to lessen the chance of colour differences in the print


Still confused about colour types? If you’re submitting artwork to us for printing and are unsure whether your design has been created using the correct colour types, speak to one of our friendly team for advice. We’ll let you know what’s what and give you a good idea of what print result to expect.

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