Who says soul has only one colour?

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Colour Me This….

Too often at Logo Central we see companies whose colours on their website aren’t quite the same as their business cards, their promotional products and so on. Generally this is the result of not understanding the use of colour across different mediums and not having clearly defined brand colour compositions for each process.

At Logo Central, we believe the key to successful branding is consistency and that every company should have a brand identity guide that defines the proper use of their logo, fonts and colours.  Specifically with colour it’s not as simple as saying “our colours are blue and red”.  Knowing your company’s Pantone colours is a great start, but there is still more that can be done to help standardize your company’s brand.

In this post we’ll help you understand CMYK, 4 colour process, RGB, Hexidecimal, PMS, Pantone and Spot Colour so you can better communicate with Logo Central, designers and printers in order to keep your brand as consistent as possible.

CMYK & 4 colour process

In elementary school we all learned the basics of mixing primary colours by finger painting… red + yellow = orange… yellow + blue = green… and if you’re like most kids you mixed them all together to make it a big brown / black mess.

That is essentially how 4 colour printing process works. Only instead of starting with blue, red and yellow, you start with a particular shade of those colours: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key – which is always represented by Black. 4 colour process uses the colour space known as CMYK.  The 4 colours are combined, one layer at a time in multiple runs, to create the desired colours.  Colours are defined by the % of each colour used. For example, a specific teal colour would be represented as C=70 M=6 Y=31 K=5.

Just like with finger painting, if you mix them all together you’re putting more ink on the page and it ultimately gets black. This is because the colours are “subtractive,” so as you add colours or ink it visually reduces colour and leaves you with a muddy brown or black colour when mixed all together.

Believe it or not, using C=0 M=0 Y=0 K=100 is not the best black you can get. For a nice, rich black, you should instead use what is called a True Black using a mix of C=75 M=68 Y=67 K=90. As you may be able to tell from the image below, the True Black is much richer.


After seeing this example you may jump to the conclusion that C=100 M=100 Y=100 K=100 would be an even better black. However, this is not the case because in most printing situations this would put far too much ink on the page.

4 colour process is definitely the most popular printing method and you’ve likely seen these CMYK markings on the tabs of cereal boxes and other packaging around your house. These registration marks are used by printers to confirm their colour mixes are properly set during printing. With 4 colour process, a very subtle shift in colour is considered acceptable because paper, temperature, ink levels, and printer adjustments effect the exact colour that is printed. For items that need an exact solid colour printed, a spot colour is used. We’ll dive into that a little later in the post.

RGB & Hexadecimal

Displaying colours on computer monitors and TVs doesn’t work like it does with a CMYK 4 colour process. If you mix all the colours together on a computer monitor, you get white instead of black. That is because the colours are “additive” and referred to as “RGB.” RGB uses Red, Green andBlue to create colour. As you add colours, you’re adding more light from the monitor’s backlight source to create the different colours. Add all of them and you’ll ultimately end up with white.

Because they are completely different colour spaces, you can often have undesired results when trying to print RGB design files using a CMYK process. In fact, because they are different colour spaces there are certain shades of colours that can’t be achieved with CMYK.

While CMYK values for each colour use a percentage between 0-100%, RGB uses a value between 0-255. With R=255 G=255 B=255 being a full white and R=0 G=0 B=0 being black.

RGB colours used in web design are often represented in hexadecimal values that a browser can read. These are either 3 or 6 digits values preceded by a hashtag. Hexidecimal colors (or Hex color codes) are made up of numbers 0-9 and then letters A-F. As a hexidecimal white would be #ffffff and black would be #000000.

Pantone (PMS)

Pantone is a corporation that created a proprietary Pantone Matching System (PMS) colour space. It provides a colour matching system to provide uniformity when discussing and producing colour. Pantone colours are printed as spot colours which means the colour is printed in a single run as opposed to being created by a mix during multiple runs like with CMYK process.

If a company is looking at printing just a couple of solid colours for, say, their logo on a sign, promotional USB drives, or on the cover of presentation folders, they will often just print the solid spot colours using only the official Pantone colours. Using a defined spot colour as opposed to a “mixed” colour creates a more exact colour match.

CMYK, RGB & Pantone – bringing it all together…

An integrated marketing strategy means your brand will be carried out across multiple mediums and therefore represented in RGB, CMYK and Pantone. At Logo Central having a in-depth understanding of each colour process is important to avoid costly mistakes. Because CMYK and RGB colors are created using completely different color spaces, shades of certain colors in RGB are simply not able to be reproduced in CMYK. This creates a problem when trying to convert RGB graphics into CMYK and vice versa. As represented in side by side comparison, you can see that some of the very brightest blues and greens that can be created on a website in RGB simply cannot be created with CMYK color process.

At Logo Central, whenever we can, we use the Pantone Matching System  swatch guide, because it shows us the Pantone colour on the left and the CMYK equivalent on the right. You’ll notice that the pictured Pantone blue looks very much like its CMYK equivalent. However, this very bright Pantone yellowish-orange looks very different printed in CMYK. This is something that we need to be aware of so that there are no surprises when printing. Mistakes on the web can be simple to fix, but printing mistakes can be very expensive.

If you’re developing a new brand or campaign, Logo Central can help you choose colours that can easily be produced across all mediums and colour spaces to ensure your brand is consistently represented.  Otherwise you may be disappointed when that super bright logo you made for your website doesn’t print quite like you wanted it to for your trade show booth.

Logo Central can help you create and brand

  • Know your colour mixes; not just for Pantone, but for CMYK, RGB and Hexadecimal too.
  • Have a brand identity document with these defined colour mixes; be the defender of your brand!
  • If you’re creating a new brand or colour palette, think ahead to where it will need to be used and choose colours that can be produced across all those mediums.