You may hear a graphic designer speak and wonder if they’ve got their own weird language. Well, they kind of do… but it’s not just made-up words.
In this post, I’m going to cover off on some terms you might hear when talking about colour, and what they mean.
I won’t bore you with all the details, just the stuff it’s handy to know.
CMYK stands for the four inks used for most colour printing; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). This is also known as full colour or process printing.
You may wonder why the term for black is ‘key’. To avoid potential confusion with blue and black, blue is called cyan (C) and black is called key (K).
Colours are defined by the percentage of each colour used. For example, one of my brand colours is coral and the CMYK value is C= 0 M=75 Y=85 K=0.
RGB & HEX
RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue and is a colour model used for screen purposes, like computer monitors and TVs.
Like CMYK, RGB colours are defined by the amount of each colour used. So my coral would be R=255 G=102 B=51. However, while CMYK values for each colour use a percentage between 0 and 100, RGB uses values between 0 and 255.
RGB colours used for web design are represented in Hexadecimal (or HEX) values. They start with the pound sign (or hashtag as the youngens say) and are followed by six digits; letters from A to F and / or numbers from 0 to 9. For example, my web safe coral is #ff6633.
PMS & Spot
PMS stands for Pantone Matching System and is used to bring uniformity to colours. As the people at Pantone say, “Using a Pantone Colour enables you to communicate your precise colour requirements in a language that is recognised around the world.”
Pantone colours are also called “spot” colours. In printing, a spot colour is an ink that is premixed to the colour required – as opposed to process (CMYK) which involves a number of colours.
- Use CMYK for print.
- Use RGB for screens.
- When you put together your style guide, it’s important to include the values for each colour model of your brand colours.
Colour models quick reference guide
Check out the infographic I put together below.
Hope this helps.