Some weird words are used in describing color when searching for promotional products. The phrases Pantone or CMYK may pop up. A Google search will throw RGB into the mix. Inhale, then exhale slowly as the difference between additive color and subtractive color is explained. Knowledge about PMS as it relates to this all will also be imparted. Advanced terminology will be replaced with layman’s terms.
Let us begin with RGB. This style is used with electronic mediums, meaning it will likely be read on a tablet or computer monitor. The R, G, B stand for Red, Green, Blue. When sharing information through digital files such as printers, television, websites, emails, and computer monitors the RGB style is the only style used.
RGB has 256 brightness levels that are used in creating between 16 and 17 million possible colors. Black is produced by combining level zero (0) of the three colors. That level zero is the lowest possible degree. When level 255 is used, the three colors are combined to the full extent in a display. R:225, G:255, B:255 indicates the maximum level of each color is being used. The color on the monitor of the sender may be different from that of the receiver. That can be explained by individual settings such as contrast or brightness, or different brands of monitors.
One might guess that CMYK is also color related. The letter C represents Cyan; M, Magenta; Y, Yellow; and K, Black. Several explanations exist for denoting K for Black. Confusion may be avoided because B is used for Blue. Some believe it is used to represent ‘Key’, meaning Black is the base color.
Anything print related that can be tangibly held, such as leaflets, brochures, business cards, billboards, and posters use CMYK. A million colors are possible after two things happen. Using a different percentage for each color, the colors are transferred to the paper using dots. The colors overlap. The overlapping determines the color the eye sees and recognizes.
The eye and brain work together to translate color from light. An object has no inherent color. The surfaces of objects either reflect or absorb light waves. When all color waves are reflected, the object appears white. When all color waves are absorbed, the object appears black.
The primary colors- blue, green, and red- are additive colors. There are three colors referred to as the primary subtractive colors. They are yellow, magenta, and cyan. The CMYK is closely related to these and is commonly used in software and printers.
The additive colors mixed in equal proportion will yield white. Equal parts of subtractive colors become a muddy brown that is nearly black. Black must be added to get a truly black color. With those facts in mind, an explanation of how black, yellow, magenta, and cyan can produce white makes sense. It also helps to understand why they are called subtractive colors. As those color percentages decrease, the effect is lighter. When all CMYK are at zero percent, white is also produced.
The problem of a sender and receiver seeing different colors on their screens can be avoided by choosing a Pantone color for company use. For color matching, PMS (Pantone Matching System) will make all items, whether digital or tangible, the same color. Anywhere the system is used, colors can be easily matched.
Knowing the PMS number will ensure the ink used in print and on promotional items will match. Small businesses need to adhere to continuity. When customers do not recognize the logo from one item to another, it means the marketing budget is being squandered. Use a Pantone color that fits the company’s color to avoid worry about the many shades of the chosen color.