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Process (CMYK) vs Spot (PMS) Colors


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Describes the difference between Process (CMYK) and spot (PMS) colors and why you business should care.

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Process (CMYK) vs Spot (PMS) Colors

  1. 1. So Why Do I Care If You Use CMYK or PMS?<br />This was exactly the question I had from a client this week about using CMYK process color or PMS spot color for a new logo. Now, you may also ask, what? If you did, then you are not alone. Choosing the right color system for printed materials can be a daunting task but makes all the difference in appearance. Because computers use HTML colors or style sheets, they cannot be used to accurately match colors for printing. For monitor and websites display colors in RGB (red, green, blue) colors. Instead, either CMYK or Pantone colors are optimum for bright, accurate colors on printed documents. CMYK Colors Using this system, different colors are created by layering cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks. Known as process colors, CMYK colors are used in a wide variety of print materials, including newspapers and magazines. The CMYK color model has two primary applications: <br />Illustrations and full-color photographs<br />Multi-color graphics that require too many colors to reproduce using Pantone (PMS) shades <br />CMYK uses a series of dots in the four colors to create images and colors. That method means that a wide variety of colors can be used in a relatively small area. Meanwhile, the main limitation of CMYK colors comes from their inconsistency. The same color may turn out differently, even when the same color appears on multiple pages or even in separate areas on the same page. <br />Pantone Colors PMS Match inks or spot colors, as it is often called. Pantone colors is similiar to what we see in house paints, or at least the system used where each color corresponds to a number and a swatch sample. Created by mixing 13 base pigments in specified amounts, the PMS model ensures the consistency that is so often lacking with CMYK. Since the color will always turn out the way it looks on the swatch, this is why Pantones can be a livesaver when it comes to matching colors. Sometimes it can be really hard to compare swatches visually, but this is where PMS is a lifesaver. Because of their qualities, PMS is not the best choice for full color photographs, but are incredibly useful in the following ways:<br />Precise color matching for logos and branding<br />Covering a large area, where consistency and saturation are important <br />Using the same color on multiple pages <br />Creating more vibrant hues and precise shades <br />Adding special effects like fluorescent, pastel, or metallic colors <br />This is where using a Pantone color can be great. If used in your branding efforts, think logo, letterhead, envelopes, etc, your color is assigned a number. this number is recognized internationally. So if you sent it to a printer in Detroit, or Bangladesh, you can be sure of accuracy. <br />So can I Use Both together?<br />Absolutely. If fact many times, this will be the case. Now do not assume that once you choose a system, CMYK, or Pantone, it can be used universally. As stated above, they both have their strengths and weaknesses. This is why it is sometimes necessary to use both together. Think of a presentation folder, where you might want some full-color photographs complement your PMS logo. this is a case where the photos would be printed with CMYK. The bottom line is, if you're working for a client, it is not their job to understand colors, it's yours! <br />