CMYK vs Pantone, Process vs Spot… what are they and which is best? It’s pretty common here at RCHQ to be talking about whether we should print in CMYK or Pantone. Lost already? Let us explain the difference:

CMYK printing, also known as process printing involves the mixing of four different colours at the printers to produce one colour. The four colours, mixed in differing ratios are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. At the printers, the cyan will be laid down first, followed by magenta, yellow then black.

For example, the Red Candy Turquoise green is made up of these four colours in the following CMYK ratios:

Cyan: 87 Magenta: 0 Yellow: 38 Black: 0

So if we were to print this colour combination, the cyan would be printed at 87% density, yellow at 38% and no magenta or black.

On the other hand…

Pantone, or spot printing uses colours that have been pre-mixed and ordered in by the printer. These colours are completely standardised under the Pantone Matching System, hence the term a ‘PMS colour’.

Basically, a Pantone colour can be ordered in by any printer and will print identically. CMYK, well….not so much. The consistency in colour between jobs is entirely up to the individual printer and how they mix the CMYK inks. That’s when having a good relationship with your printer (or letting your agency take that on for you) is vital – be confident of how they print and the quality they output. Press checks can be a good idea if you’re unsure.

Red Candy’s Turquoise is Pantone 326. So, why we would use one version over the other?

Deciding whether to print with CKMY or Pantone

In a nutshell, it’s a mix of budget, colour consistency requirement and print method.

Handy hint: if you choose a colour, for a brand, or as part of your support palette, or for any other reason, make sure you like the CMYK version of it as much as you like the Pantone version of it. Refer to the pantone booklets for a comparison. The number of times you will have to print CMYK will probably outweigh the number of times you print with the colour as a pantone – so it makes sense to love it just as much.

Handy hint: regardless of which method you choose, the final colour output may vary with the type of paper you are using.

Did you know? Digital printing is only ever in CMYK.

So, Pantone vs CMYK, what do you know now? #fastfacts

  1. Pantone gives you consistency every time. This is really relevant when printing elements related to your brand, such as your logo, supporting graphics and primary colour palette. Business cards are often printed using spot colours.
  2. CMYK is great for general collateral including photos, noon-critical branding elements, brochures and when constrained by factors such as print format, budget or volume.
  3. Don’t forget, you can print CMYK plus spot colours! Super idea for printing collateral that incorporates photography and your brand. Yep, it’s a wee bit more expensive, but sometimes well worth it.

And some final tips for colour management:

  1. Always make sure your brand’s primary version is a Pantone. Specify your brand colours in your style guide – be sure to include both Pantone and CMYK format. This helps designers when preparing collateral for you and advising on print options. By the way, a style guide is a must – it’s your governance document for your brand.
  2. Always check. Don’t rely on your printer to get your colour options right. It’s your brand, so look after it. And if you’re working with Red Candy…we’ll also do that checking for you too…how very helpful!

So, what’s RGB? Well, let’s talk about that a little later…