It’s time to send your design to print, but you’ve got one big question: RGB, CMYK, or PMS? Choosing the right color profile can make all of the difference in the world when it comes to how your design will appear in print. Pick the wrong one, and your colors may not look the way you want. Here’s a simplified breakdown of each of these three color profiles and when you should use each in your marketing designs.
RGB stands for “red, green, blue” and is often used in digital design to accurately represent colors on computer screens. To create a color pallet, this profile blends red, green, and blue light waves to give you the exact shade you’re looking for. RGB is best for projects like:
A viewer’s monitor settings can change the way RGB colors are displayed on the screen, so your digital designs might vary slightly on different computer screens.
Similar to RGB, the CMYK color profile blends multiple colors together to achieve the right look. The colors used in CMYK are cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black), and each color is applied in layers during the printing process to match your chosen hue exactly. You would use a CMYK profile for:
This profile is ideal for printed materials, but you should expect very slight variation in your colors throughout the printing process. This is a result of differences in paper, ink levels, temperature, and the process of mixing inks itself. While this variation is barely noticeable, it should be a factor when considering which color profile to use for branded materials.
PMS, or Pantone Matching System, is the most accurate color profile for printed materials. RGB and CMYK colors are blended in real-time during the printing process, which can create inconsistencies in your color. PMS colors are pre-mixed before printing and each color is applied one by one to maintain consistency throughout the print job.
Given its unique accuracy, the PMS color profile is most often used for:
You also have the option of using PMS and CMYK together to achieve a full color palette for full-color photographs and other multimedia printing projects.
Each of these color profiles has its strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to choose one that meets your specific printing needs. Discuss the possibilities with your printer to accurately display the colors of your design and capture the essence of your branding in the printing process.