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CMYK, RGB and PMS Explained

All images are displayed using 2 different color modes, CMYK or RGB. Here is an explanation of each and why they are important to understand.

RGB ( Red / Green / Blue )
RGB is the color of the light emitted from computer monitors, cell phones, ipads and TV’s. There are millions of colors used in RGB and it produces the best and brightest colors you can imagine. Use the RGB color mode if you are using graphics specifically to be viewed onscreen, such as the internet or for a CD or presentations.

CMYK ( Cyan / Magenta / Yellow / Black )
CMYK is the color of inks used in the offset printing process. Unlike the computer screen, light cannot be used to blend the color. This has to be done with ink, therefore it’s reflective, rather than back-lit. The CMYK color mode is not as bright or intense as the color will seem on the monitor.


PMS ( Pantone Matching System )
As you can see in the diagram, the CMYK logo looks dull on screen compared to the RGB one. Colors tend to shift, especially blues, purples and magentas. To keep this from happening, it is always good to color match with the Pantone Matching System (PMS). This is where colors have been pre-mixed and have numbers associated with them so printers will know how to match the specific color. Learn more about Pantone.

So, while RGB uses light to mix colors on screen, CMYK uses ink to mix them on paper. In order to make sure the CMYK printed piece matches the colors you want, you will need to use a PMS number.


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