The Difference Between RGB, CMYK and Pantone

Do you know the difference between RGB, CMYK and Pantone color codes and when to use them? Let us help you and explain to you what each of these color modes is used for exactly.

When creating a file, we have to take into account what it will be used for.. It is not the same to create a file that is designed to be seen only on screen as it is to create a file designed to be printed. With these differences, the most important thing to take into account is the color used in the file. In this post we show you the different color codes and which one to use for each occasion. Keep reading!

CMYK colors are used for printing and RGB for anything that has to do with the web and digital screens. Therefore, if you want to print a file in color and you want the printed colors to be as close as possible to the ones you see on your screen, the appropriate color mode will be CMYK. If your file is only meant to be seen on screen or on a website, the most reliable mode is RGB. CMYK and RGB modes are complementary, two subtractive colors create an additive color and vice versa. As for Pantone, it is a brand that has produced more than a 1000 colors with a reference number for each one. If you use a Pantone shade, you can be sure that the one you choose will always look the same. Which is especially convenient for corporate colors and logos.

In the image below we can see how the orange color changes according to the color format used.


Exemple of an Orange shade in Pantone - PCG Bacelona

                       Pantone 164 C

Exemple of an Orange shade in CMYK - PCG Bacelona

  Equivalent in CMYK mode : 0-59-80-0

Exemple of an Orange shade in RGB - PCG Bacelona

  Equivalent in RGB mode : 255-128-64


RGB colors

It is a color mode based on additive synthesis. You can create more than 16 million colors simply by mixing the three primary colors together.

• R = Red

• G = Green

• B = Blue

In the additive color system, a value is assigned to each color (from 0 to 255). The sum of all of them in their highest value (255) is white, the absence of color. Their lowest value (0) gives you black. The combination of two RGB colors at their maximum level results in a CMYK color, C (R = 0, G = 255, B = 255), M (R = 255, G = 0, B = 255), Y (R = 255, G = 255, B = 0).

As they are light colors they are made for being seen on screens, devices that display them by means of light rays. Screens have pixels and each pixel contains 3 smaller pixels, one for each primary color. The sum of the primary colors forms a pixel of color and the addition of all of the pixels of color creates the image.



Color Modes : RGB Colors - PCG Bacelona
Color Modes : CMYK Colors - PCG Bacelona

CMYK colors

It’s a subtractive color mode based on the mixture of pigments of the following colors:

• C = Cyan

• M = Magenta

• Y = Yellow

• K = Key (Black)

The mixture of cyan, magenta and yellow creates a dark brown. To create black we only need K and it will not be necessary to add the other colors.

The subtractive colors absorb and reject the light of the objects, therefore, if an object is cyan it absorbs all the wavelengths minus the cyan, which is the color we will see.

Lighter colors will have a lower ink percentage and shadows a higher percentage. Thus, to create white we will not need any ink, unlike the RGB.


Pantone colors

As we said in the introduction, Pantone Inc. is a company that has created a series of colors with a unique name that can be found in the Pantone guide. The Pantone system is a guide of colors that are identified with a code, which are obtained from a physical mixture of ink pigments.

It is the most appropriate mode to print designs with corporate colors or if we need a color to look exactly as we want. It is necessary to indicate in the document which Pantone name we want and in any printing company they will have enough information to accurately print that exact same color.

Color Modes : Pantone Colors - PCG Bacelona
Visual differences between CMYK and RGB

As seen, we use the CMYK color mode to print and the RGB one on screens. So when something that is originally in RGB is printed, the color mode is converted and that leads to visual differences in the product. To avoid surprises, it is convenient to send the printing file in CMYK and thus control how the colors will come out. The RGB image has more vivid and bright colors that can not be reproduced in CMYK.


Example of colors in RGB - PCG Bacelona
Example of colors in CMYK - PCG Bacelona

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