Colours and Print: what is the difference between RGB, CMYK and Pantone Colours?

June 22, 2010

At Pixellogo, we sell a lot of logo design templates to our customers every day. Many of our clients are new to the printing-side of things and we find that they often ask us the same questions: "Why doesn't my printed logo design look like the PDF that I saw on my screen?" and "What is the difference between RGB, CMYK and Pantone colour modes?”

Regardless of whether you want to print a logo design on your business cards or whether you are choosing a template design for the web, you should have a good understanding of the 3 color models that we use every day: RGB, CMYK and Pantone. Hopefully, this article will help you to better understand the main differences between them.

RGB Colours


RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue and in general, RGB is associated with screens. Monitors such as your computer or television, digital cameras and scanners all create images using different colour combinations of red, green and blue. In RGB mode, white is the sum of all three colours whereas black is the absence of all three colours.

Any image that is optimized for a computer screen is in RGB mode and as such, many computer graphics applications also default to the RGB color space. Because most printers actually use the CMYK colour space, if you want to print an image from your computer, you will have to convert it to CMYK .


CMYK is also sometime called four-colour process printing. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black and in general, CMYK is the type of colour that you find on most printed materials like newspapers and magazines.

CMYK is what the vast majority of home printers and commercial printers use. In general, CMYK is very good for printing images but there are some types of color that don’t print very well in CMYK. This is because the range of reproducible color for CMYK colours is not as wide as that of RGB colours. As a result, certain intense values of colors such as orange, green, blue, and other bright colors that you see on your screen may sometimes appear dull or even dirty when printed. This is why sometimes the colour of your digital artwork or of a logo design displayed on a computer screen may not match that which is printed. If you want to print very bright colours, metallic colours or other special effects colours, it is best to use Pantone colours.

Pantone colours

Pantone colours are also often known as spot colours. Pantone colours are used by professional print shops around the world. They are a set of standardized and universal colours created by the printing industry in order to help designers, print shops and customers understand exactly what colours they are going to print. Pantone colours are pre-mixed colours with published color formulas. Every Pantone colours is referenced in a Pantone swatch books and each colour has number corresponding to it.

Pantone colours are good because they are sharp and you know exactly what you are going to get. They are used to help eliminate complications and disappointments when a job goes to print. Unfortunately, printing with Pantone colours is expensive and should only be used if a specific job cannot be handled by CMYK.

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Most creative software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Quark Xpress allow you to easily convert your files from RGB to CMYK and vice versa. If you are ever unsure, it is always best to bring your original files to a printer and have them do the colour conversions for you.

If you are looking for some free logos so that you can play with RGB and CMYK colour spaces or if you are looking for a free logo design to print on your business cards or stationery, visit our website We offer a wide variety of free logo design templates that you can download easily and start using right away. All of our designs can be easily converted from RGB to CMYK and vice versa using either Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop.

Here are just a few examples of some free logos that are available on our website:

Free logos - Baseball Free logos - PeaceFree logos - Creative boxFree logos - Solutions

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