CMYK vs. PMS

Frequently we ask if the colors for your print project are CMYK or PMS. To designers and printers these are two common color spaces, but to a business owner who wants to print their logo or other branding collateral this question can result in confusion.

PMS stands for Pantone Matching System (PMS), a proprietary color space used in a variety of industries, primarily printing, though sometimes in the manufacture of colored paint, fabric, and plastics. By standardizing the colors, any printer can refer to the Pantone system to make sure colors match without direct contact with one another.

Here is an example using Pantone 540:

PMS 540 and the corresponding cmyk values

To print the above blue as CMYK, it needs to be broken down into the percentages of the cyan, magenta, yellow and black to make that blue.

To print this blue using the Pantone ink for Pantone color 540 it does not have to be broken down. If you have a logo made from this color including different screens (shades) of this blue only one plate would be needed for the logo.

The below image of the orange is an example of what happens when you convert a PMS color to CMYK. Any type of gang run printing converts your PMS colors to CMYK.  This swatch shows how much punch you lose in converting from a Pantone color to CMYK.

Calico Creative can work with PMS colors. A job printed with PMS colors will require a custom quote. These colors offer a tonal range that CMYK doesn’t (see above orange).  We have swatch books that allows us to find the PMS value for any type of CMYK work you have done in the past.

A little more about color…

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.  These are the primary colors for print. Where we all grew up knowing Yellow and blue make green and Yellow and red make orange, the printing industry grew up knowing that varying the quantities of cyan, magenta, yellow and black creates an endless array of colors to print. PMS stands for Pantone Matching System colors. There can be so much variation in color using CMYK that Pantone set out to create a system that allowed for consistent color. This way a designer can create a logo that will print consistently from job to job and printer to printer. CMYK color always requires four plates to be made for a print to be made, while a carefully crafted one or two color logo using  PMS colors only needs two to print.

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