What Does CMYK, RGB, and PMS Actually Mean?

If you haven’t noticed yet, we love colour. Colour is vibrant and eye-catching and has the ability to change the meaning of the message, emphasize an image, or inspire certain emotions. It’s a valuable tool to use when marketing to the public. However, as beautiful as colour can be, it’s also complex. CMYK, RGB, and PMS may seem like obscure acronyms but are very important to designers.

PMS Colour

In a previous post, we’ve discussed the Pantone Matching System. It is a system created by Pantone that sorts created inks into distinct shades. The system is utilized by graphic designers and printing houses, as it provides a reference for exact shades in colour. Printers often have slight differences in calibration, making it difficult to get a perfect match, but PMS helps prevent this issue. Businesses and brands which have specific colours associated with them will use PMS to maintain consistency. If you’re interested in using a specific colour for your brand, browse Pantone’s Colour Finder and find the specific number code for that colour!

 CMYK Colour

Unlike the Pantone Matching System, CMYK relies on a four-colour process: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). The CMYK process works by using ink that absorbs the light reflected from the white of the paper. The model is considered subtractive as the inks essentially subtract red, green, and blue from the white light. This leaves behind the CMYK colours: cyan, magenta, and yellow. Combining the inks will leave you with black. CMYK colours are mixed during the printing process, as opposed to being chosen prior. Because of this, there may be inconsistencies in the colour when more than one copy is printed.

 RGB Colour

RGB simply means Red, green, and blue. The RGB model is only used for digital works, as screens emit light. While the CMYK model depends on inks during the printing process, the colours in the RGB model are created by blending light. Combining all the colours would result in white being created.

If you’ve ever printed an image and the colours seemed different than what was on the screen, it’s because of these colour models. When something is printed from the computer, which is using RGB colour, it’s converted into the CMYK model. This is why RGB colours will appear more vibrant than CMYK colours, as the RGB model uses light instead of ink.

Next time you’re working with colours, keep these models in mind! If you’re still confused on how these models work, stop by JLS Decals & Signs and we’ll be happy to help you.

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