CMYK vs RGB vs Pantone artwork

I am often asked what the difference is between RGB and CMYK…

RGB is how your computer monitor displays the colours you see. Everything is made up of Red, Blue and Green in various strengths to make each colour that prints, including black.

If you are having your business cards, letterheads or posters printed digitally then what you get will be very similar to what you see on-screen as most digital machines use RGB printing.

However, some people do get a shock, a totally different look. That is because our computer monitors are not all calibrated the same, what I see on mine could be a lot different to the same colours on your screen. Also, monitors are back lit, the light comes through the colours enhancing them & making the colours more vibrant and bright than we can ever achieve on paper. A fluro green on your computer screen will print a dull green on paper.

CMYK is how professional Offset printing is performed. This is how magazines are printed and is how I will print your products (unless specified) The CMYK stands for: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key… so instead of how you see your colour on your monitor or from your office Laser Printer, made of Red, Blue & Green, we will print in 4 separate colours. Black can actually be made from the Cyan, Magenta and Yellow but an additional run of solid black ink is also used, and that is called the Key as it ‘locks in’ & enhances all the colour making it a sharper image.

Therefore, if you have set up artwork in RGB, it will have to be altered before being sent to press and the final colours printed may differ than those original intended. If you have any concerns over colour and especially colour matching, always discuss this with your Graphic Designer or Printer before committing to print. CMYK colours tend to be dull in comparison to the vibrant RGB colours you can see in Word etc. on-screen.

Pantone is a 5th colour when printing Offset printing, we can print the CMYK + a separate solid colour ink, a Pantone colour. It is a precise matching system, as all current Pantone books will display the same ink colour and it shouldn′t matter which printer, or which printing machine is used, the same colour will be printed time after time. Pantone colours are usually asked for when colour matching, say, for printing your colour onto a fabric banner, even though an actual Pantone ink will not be used, it is a good system for ensuring the printers will print the colour the designer expects.

However, it is unreliable to chose a Pantone Colour from your computer screen as what you see on your monitor will be RGB, only an approximation of the colour. It is always recommended to view the colour, or chose the Pantone from a current Pantone Colour Guide book. As all inks fade with time, and the paper degrades, it is not recommended to use an old Pantone book as that colour could have faded and so not print as you had envisaged.

We are always happy to discuss colour issues or any concerns you may have.

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