Colour Schmolour

Either you need to add an image to the web, or you’ve got logo files with different file names but you don’t know what to do with them, you likely will need to consider colour. In the design world, colour is crucial and ensuring the right colours are used help us brand your company in a consistent way.

The first thing to know about colour is that there are three different approaches to colour in design, printing and the web, they are: PMS, CMYK and RGB colour. Using the right colour mode will allow your project to be viewed and produced properly and consistently.




RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue. These colours can make up any colour you see digitally on screens like your desktop, tablet, phone, projector and so on. RGB works with light in an additive way.  This means the three light beams (one red, one green and one blue) are added together and superimposed on a black surface to produce white. A screen is composed of very fine pixels that contain different intensities of these three colour light rays. When each value is set at 0, like so, R0 G0 B0, the colour will be black because there is no light on the surface. When its set to it’s highest capacity, 255, as R255 G255 B255, the colour appears as white because the light is at its strongest intensity.



CMYK colour is what is used for printing. When printing, every colour produced is made out of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. This four part colour is known as process colour. When printing, different densities of the colours are added together to produce full colour images. CMYK is the opposite of RGB in the sense that it works in a subtractive way. Less colour used means it’s closer to white. This is similar to mixing paints. When you take every colour and mix it together, you get a muddy, dark combination. When each of the CMYK colours is added at 100% density, it produces black. When they are all set at 0%, you would get white.



This stands for Pantone Matching System. A Pantone colour is a specific ink colour chosen from a swatch book, accompanied by a number code for consistent matching, every time. This resembles paint swatches at the hardware store. When you select your paint swatch, you can bring that swatch to the paint mixer in order for you to be able to get the same colour consistently on your walls. The Pantone colour is a purchased colour / ink that is blended to provide this consistent look. You likely will not use Pantones if there is a full colour project, or a project that contains more than 4 specific colours. For example, if you had a rainbow coloured logo, you likely wouldn’t use Pantones because you would need a Pantone colour for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet. That would be pretty expensive to print, versus using only 4 colours in CMYK printing. These colours are typically used in offset printing, when you are printing large quantities of things.  Often times logos are produced with Pantone inks so the logo can be consistently viewed. Pantone swatch books also contain handy converters for both RGB and CMYK values. Luckily, Pantone colours translate fairly easily to the web because in our digital age, most things are produced on computers and we are therefor viewing and working with them through a screen broken into RGB. On the other hand, Pantone colours don’t always convert to CMYK as easily. Pantone Swatch Books contain the closest CMYK values for you to be able to prepare your file for digital printing, but they aren’t always perfect.





So you’re probably wondering, why does all of this matter to you?
In order for you to have a consistent brand, you have to make sure you are using the right colour format for the proper application. A lot of colours don’t translate well across these spectrums. An example can be shown here:

RGB and CMYK are very different colour formats. Let’s take a look at how they appear once produced. On the left you’ll see a close up of a screen. You can see how the black is just black, and yet the white is produced of the Red, Green and Blue lights on.

On the right, you’ll see a closeup of a printed version of the business name. The white area is produced of nothing, it’s just white, and the black area is produced out of combining all of the CMYK colours together.




With that being said, the two don’t cross over as easily as you’d think. So if you had a file that was produced for web or screen use and you decided to print it, it would likely print wonky and dark. If you decide to use a file made for print on the web or screen, it’s also likely the colours will appear murky and dull. Let’s take a look at how the colours translate across applications.

Here is the original logo file. This is the proper way for your logo to be viewed. This is a Pantone colour converted easily into RGB for web viewing.


Pantone provides proper colour values to have your original logo printed in CMYK. Often times, the CMYK colours look very different on screen but once printed in CMYK, the logo will appear identical in colour to the proper logo file (Left image).  However, if that CMYK converted file is added to the web, the colours become fluorescent because the CMYK values don’t convert easily to RGB (Right image).  Let’s take a look:



So, if you’re updating your social media page, or sending a logo off to be used in a newsletter, make sure you send the proper files and use the proper format to ensure your project looks how it’s supposed to.

Don’t ever be afraid to ask your designer for the proper colour format of your files. That’s what we’re here for! 🙂

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