CMYK vs. Pantone colours


When it comes time for printing your logo design, business cards or stationery, it is very important that you have a good understanding of colours and the different colour options available to you at your printers. What exactly are CMYK colours? How are they made and how are they different from Pantone colours? What colour process should I use to print my 2-colour logo design? The following short colour guide will answer these questions for you and make your next trip to the printers much more pleasant.


CMYK colourCMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K). CMYK colours are also commonly called four-colour process colours. Many printers use these terms interchangeably. This can be very confusing if you don’t realize that they are actually talking about the same colour model.

Much like when you were a child mixing red and yellow to make orange, CMYK colours are made by mixing different percentages of these four primary pigments: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. In general, CMYK colours are what the vast majority of home printers and commercial printers use.

CMYK colours are great for printing catalogues, magazines, brochures and anything else with a lot of images. There are thousands of different possible CMYK colour combinations that makes printing images with CMYK colours a breeze. Also, because CMYK only involves 4 inks, printing with CMYK colours tends to be cheaper than printing with Pantone colours.

However great as they may seem, there are definitely some drawbacks to printing in CMYK. For one, some bright colours can appear dull or even dirty when printed in CMYK. Also, if you are printing several copies of the same artwork such as several copies of your business card or letterheads for example, you must be aware that the colour may not be 100% consistent across all of your copies. Furthermore, different printers may yield slightly different variations of each CMYK colour.

Pantone colours

Pantone color swatch bookPantone colours are also often referred to as spot colours and they are used by professional print shops around the world. When you need to have an exact colour printed for a job, it is best to use a Pantone colour.

Pantone colours are a set of colours that are standardized across all printers. Pantone colours are pre-mixed colours with published color formulas and every Pantone colour is referenced in a Pantone swatch book. Each color in the Pantone system has a unique name or number. Most designers and printers own a Pantone swatch book that you can use when you are trying to select a specific Pantone colour to use for a job. There are also several metallic Pantone colour options.

Pantone or spot colours are precise, sharp and consistent. Pantone colours are often used in corporate identities, logo designs and stationary designs because Pantone colours are always consistent no matter how many copies you are making or which printer is printing your designs. Pantone colours can be expensive however so they are generally only used for jobs restricted to the use of 1-3 colours.

In summary….

- lower cost when printing with many colours
- used in home and digital printing
- great for printing catalogues, magazines, brochures and anything else with a lot of images

- not consistent across jobs or printers
- bright colours may be dull

Pantone – PROs
- you know exactly what you are going to get
- consistency across all jobs and printers
- can print metallic colours
- sharp colours
- great for 1-3 colour designs

Pantone – CONs
- more expensive than printing with CMYK for smaller runs and for jobs that consist of many different colours.


Here is a Free Business Card to download, click here to download.


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