Colour Explained

Why CMYK and not RGB?

CMYK is the colour model used for printing with lithographic and digital presses. RGB (Red, Green & Blue) is the colour model used for devices such as a computer monitors or screens as they can only be viewed with natural or produced light.

CMYK Explained

CMY (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow) are the primary colours used in both lithographic and digital printing. These three colours are used in printing because virtually any visible colour can be created simply by mixing them in various amounts. In theory, when combined, CMY (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) should produce black. However, due to minor impurities contained in inks, the result is often a muddy dark brown. For this reason, black is added as a fourth printing ink. Black is recognised as a 'key' colour, hence it is designated with the letter 'K".   The pigments of CMYK are printed in small dots and if you were to take a magnifying glass to the paper, you would see that it would mainly be just a bunch of small dots spread out across the sheet.

Remember: Dyes and pigments do not produce as wide a range of colours as light. So, when an image is printed on paper, there is often an unwanted change in tones, and the colours may be more muted than they are on a computer monitor.


When CMYK process cannot achieve the depth of colour required, a Pantone® colour can be used either as a fifth colour, on its own, or with other Pantone® colours.  Pantone® is a standardised colour matching system, utilising the Pantone® numbering system for identifying colours. By standardising the colours, designers, printers and manufacturers in different locations can all reference a Pantone® numbered colour, making sure colours match without direct contact with one another. There are further Pantone® palettes available in addition to the standard solids such as metallic, neon and pastel.  All Pantone® colours are followed by a C (coated paper), U (uncoated paper), or M (mat paper) suffix.

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