Colours are the essence to capture the audience’s attention and they are needed to send the right message and emotions. Brands are very much dependent on colours to create a unique sense of identity associated and brand recognition is one of the most powerful form of marketing. Different colours actually symbolise different meanings and some widely known associations are listed below:

Red represents passion, strength, power, determination

Orange represents vibrancy, enthusiasm, vitality,

Yellow represents sunshine, joy, happiness, and energy.

Green represents healthy, freshness, and fertility.

Blue represents  peace, stability, trust and loyalty.

Purple represents royalty, power and nobility.

White represents purity, perfection and cleanliness.

Black represents elegance, mystery and contrast.

RGB Colour scale

When we look at the digital world, the computers, social media and designing a page on Adobe photoshop or other program, RGB is the colour model used.

RGB is based on the additive color model, which means that Red, Green and Blue (RGB) colours are added together to produce other colours. When there are 100% of red, green and blue, the ultimate result is white colour. Consequently, 0% of all 3 colours give black. When we mix red and green are added, we get yellow; Green and blue gives cyan while red and blue results in magenta.

For any computer or LED screen, our monitor colours comprise of a series of pixels from the RGB colours.

Whether you are reading this article on an older CRT or a brand new LED flat screen, the computer monitor maps using a series of Red, Green and Blue pixels. They are lighted up in different intensity to give different colours.

CMYK Colour scale

All kinds of printers, unfortunately, do not use the same colour scale as our computers. For small scale, home based, industrial grade printers, all of them use CMYK inks to produce images. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key. The K in Key stands also for black colour as it is used to provide the lines and contrast of the images. In contrast, CMYK is based on a subtractive model, whereby inks are removed to achieve different colours. When printing in CMYK, each colour is layered separately. The colours will combined or be layered over one another to form the different colours. The dots and patterns are printed a specific alignments and angles to create the perception. Now you know why you have 4 different ink toners in your printer!

Pantone Colour scale

The Pantone Matching System (PMS – not Post Menstrual Syndrome!) is a guide where the colours are mixed specifically to create an index of colours. It is standardised across the industry so that different printers, companies, designers will know exactly which shade the colour is, in order to re-create or re-produce them. The printers are armed with the Pantone colour swatches so that you can refer to them as you choose colours. With this index, you will know exactly what will be printed out, although the end result might also vary slightly according to the paper used.

RGB vs CMYK vs Pantone

These 3 different colour scales vary in terms of the different online design and printing applications. While it looks confusing, it’s good to understand the basics and when you are speaking to designers and printer representative, you will be able to understand the different lingo used. For marketing strategies, these colours schemes are especially important to comprehend so that the right message can be conveyed.

Here are the key points to bear in mind:

  • RGB scale combines light to incorporate on PC monitors for digital viewing.
  • CMYK combines ink colors on sheets of paper or other print media.
  • Do not use RGB model for printed projects since the PC monitors will give different colours when printing out in CMYK printers. The colours on our computers are more vivid than printed media.
  • It’s best to decide on the Pantone color as it will be closely represented when printed. Watch out for 50 shades of grey!
RGB, CMYK, Pantone – Why your printed materials may look different?