When to Use CMYK colors v. Pantone colors.

A white, rounded square logo with an abstract S-shaped design on a gradient blue and purple background.

Quick Overview
CMYK colors are ideal for full color images, such as photographs.

Pantone colors on the other hand should be used for stationery and logo designs.

The Reason
The reason a Pantone color should be used is to ensure your branding color is consistent throughout.

Quick Example
A specific example of cost savings is a batch-printing job using CMYK over Pantone. A Pantone color process is more expensive due to the labor involved with printing – ink mixing, loading the press, printing the job and then cleaning the press.

Long Technical Explanation
CMYK (Process) – When printing an image in CMYK, the file is separated into four primary colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.CMYK colors are simulated colors and are not pre-mixed. When an image is recreated there are screen tints made up of small dots that are applied at different angles to the four process colors. The separated colors are than transferred to four different printing plates on the press. The colors are than printed multiple times one after the other to create the final image.


PMS (Pantone Matching System) – On the other hand, PMS colors (also known as Spot or Pantone colors) are particular colors that will accurately reproduce in print. Instead of trying to simulate colors, PMS colors are pre-mixed published color formulas with an existing palette of 14 basic colors. There are however, Pantone swatch books that feature an array of colors aside from the 14 basic color palette. This gives your printed piece the cleanest and truest color result.

Pantone logo on the left with the tagline "The color of ideas." On the right, three cans of Pantone paint in different colors are stacked with a paintbrush placed in front, highlighting when to use CMYK colors v. Pantone colors for precision.

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