Whether you’re designing a postcard, a web page, or a social media post, or something else, you’re going to be using color. Color has such an impact on how a piece comes together as a finished piece so it is critical that colors turn out just how you invision. In order to make sure your colors are correct, you need to understand the difference between PMS, CMYK, RBG, and HEX colors. Each of these color profiles have different uses, color codes, and systems so it can be hard to keep track what they all mean. Keep reading for our easy-to-follow breakdown of each of these color profiles!

Pms (pantone matching system)
pantone swatches

The Pantone® Matching System (PMS) are patented, standardized color inks that are my by Pantone Company. Pantone created the first standardized color system that allows for easy color matching. PMS colors were created for print use only and do not apply to screen use. 

There are currently 1,867 solid PMS colors in their Formula Guide. These ink colors can be sold to printers either premixed or as a formula that printers can then mix themselves. 

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black)
CMYK color Example

CMYK color (also known as four-color process) is a method where tiny transparent color dots in the four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) are combined. The various combinations of these colors and how they overlap create a full rainbow of colors. 

RGB (Red, green, blue)
phone and camera

RGB is the most commonly used color profile in the world of technology. The RGB color process is where colors are rendered by using combinations of red, green, and blue. 

RGB is best for designing anything that will be viewed on a screen. If something is designed using RGB colors but gets printed, the colors can seem dull. RGB colors appear vibrant because they are illuminated.

HEX (hexadecimal color)

HEX colors are used in the world of web design. A HEX color is expressed as a six-digit combination of numbers and letters defined by its mix of red, green, and blue (RGB). 

Essentially HEX colors are a shorthand version of RGB values with some conversion gymnastics in between. 

Color types cheat sheet

Remembering what each color profile is used for can take some time. Feel free to save this color profile cheat sheet for easy-to-access information on your desktop or tablet. If you have any additional questions, you can always reach out to one of our design experts.

Color types cheat sheet