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rgb, cmyk and spot colours


When designing for print, it is important to understand the distinction between RGB, Spot Colour and CMYK. First, let’s start with a brief overview of each.

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue and refers to how colours are viewed on a computer display. The Red, Green and Blue can be combined in various ways to come to any colour in the visible spectrum. RGB is for on-screen use only and is not suitable for printing.

4 colour process printing or CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Keyline (Black). These four colours can produce almost any colour imaginable. This is typically the preferred option when printing detailed artwork with images and graphics containing more than 4 colours. During printing, each colour is applied to the surface one at a time in a layered fashion using four different print plates. Since the inks are blended and printed at the same time, there can be slight colour variations with each print run.

Spot Colours are picked using the PMS (Pantone Matching System). Compared to CMYK, spot colour blends inks during the print process and then transfers solid fields of the pre-mixed ink directly onto the page. Colours are reliably consistent from print run to print run due to this process. Spot Colour can only typically be used for print pieces with 1 – 3 colours only. Print pieces using spot colour are bright and vibrant and are a great choice for printing logos, text and simple illustrations.

Many organisations will offer a style guide which will outline their chosen colours in RGB, CMYK and Spot Colour. Print is a manufactured process, so there will always be slight variations in colour depending on how your job is printed and what it’s printed on. Speak to our team to discuss if CMYK or Spot Colour would work best for your upcoming print piece.