The Difference Between CMYK and PMS Colors

Monday, June 3, 2019

Color brings a lot of complexity and is something that needs to be taken into consideration when printing. When creating a color scheme, it will usually include CMYK colors, PMS colors, or both.

CMYK Colors

CMYK refers to the four ink colors that make up the schema: magenta, cyan, yellow, and black. This model mixes together the three primary colors and then adds black to make darker shades. Printers use four separate plates to make up the full image. One plate is used for each of the four colors (magenta, cyan, yellow, black) and will lay down a specific pigment on the image. Although this sounds like a very basic way to print, it has been used effectively for hundreds of years.

PMS Colors

PMS or better known as Pantone Matching System colors are slightly different than CYMK colors, due to the fact they are mixed before they reach the surface. The pure spot color allows for a wider range of colors than the CYMK spectrum. All PMS colors contain a unique hue, which is matched to a number on the Pantone Matching System of swatches. Although PMS inks are not laid in a dot pattern, they can be screened in halftone to create an abundance of shades.

Viewing Colors

It is difficult to view both PMS and CMYK colors on a computer because of the display variation and lighting changes. Luckily, Pantone LLC provides a chart showing the PMS colors that will be printed on your project. Using a unique set of numbers customers and printers can communicate effectively about this challenging subject. Colors can easily be mistaken from one person to another making it difficult to describe specific colors without the use of the common language that PMS standards brings.

Ready to begin your next printing project? Our color experts will help you find the right shade to match your brand. Contact us today to get started!

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