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When you are working with colors, you will encounter different color systems. Machines and manufacturers use Color Systems to create and display appropriate colors. In this post, we’ll go over these color systems so you know which ones to use for your projects.


Print

The two standard systems used in print are CMYK and Pantone. If you are doing print, always check with the printer.

CMYK

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. Different colors are created by combining Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black.

If you are making a printed object, like a holiday card, that needs to be handed over to the printer, make sure that the colors you are using in your design are CMYK colors.

If you are not using CMYK colors for a printed object, the colors you used in your design will turn out incorrectly because you were using the wrong color system.

Pantone

Pantone is a standardized color system used across many industries. This system describes color by giving it a number like “PMS 125”. Pantone publishes booklets with their colors and color codes for users to reference. Pantone is convenient because it has become a standard language among designers, manufacturers, retailers, and customers.

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a Pantone booklet; credit: pantone.com

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a color being described in CMYK and Pantone systems

Digital

The two main standard systems used in print are RGB/HEX and HSL.

RGB

RGB is a color system used to display digital images in TVs and Computers. In this system, Red, Green, and Blue are combined to produce different colors. If you are designing for the digital environment (like a website or social media graphic), you want to use the RGB color system. Because RGB is designed for the digital screen, it can give you the bright colors (such as neons), that CMYK cannot.

HEX

The HEX system is used primarily on the web. A hex color is expressed as a six-digit combination of numbers and letters, defined by colors expressed from RGB.

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