Most magazines, catalogues, and brochures are produced using the CMYK process.

So what does this mean?

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (aka Black) are the four colours that make up CMYK. Inkjet printers commonly use these four ink colours for printing.

Various amounts of these 4 colours are mixed together in commercial printing to create a vast array of colours. The CMYK printing process uses four colour plates, one for each colour. This is known as the four colour process (4CP). In addition to CMYK, some presses offer 5 or 6 colours, which means metallic spot colours or a vanish can be added.

You may also hear CMYK mentioned as the subtractive method of colour printing. Each of the 4 colours is layered down over the white paper, thus less light is reflected through it; therefore, the white is subtracted.

CMYK is a cost-effective printing method. Ink is required in only four colours and mixed according to each project’s colour requirements.

Additionally, the four-colour process lends itself well to small and large printing projects as well as managing multiple print jobs on a single printing press. There may be issues reproducing the exact colour hue again. Colours are not standardised across all printing presses, so they can differ a little.

PMS: Pantone Matching System

PMS stands for Pantone Matching System, a standardised system for categorising spot colours. Because Pantone colours are pre-mixed, a Pantone colour code is always the same regardless of where or how it is printed.

Pantone lends itself well to projects where colour consistency and accuracy are paramount; for example, branding and catalogue printing. As pantone colours are pre-mixed, each print project requires a specific colour range. Consequently, it can be more expensive.

Using a Pantone becomes more cost-effective for large print projects where colour consistency and accuracy are important.


RGB stands for red, green and blue, and is used on computer screens but not in printing. While RGB can be converted to CMYK, it cannot be converted to Pantone. Since RGB and CMYK colours are constructed differently, any conversion is likely to result in colour changes. It is therefore not recommended to create print-ready artwork using RGB images.

So what is it best to use?

CMYK is a suitable choice for any size print project and when precise colour matching is not a priority. Pantone colours are recommended for large print projects in which colour consistency is essential. You should never use RGB!

The guide above is a general guide, but it’s always wise to talk to us! So call us on 01323 419701 to discuss your project requirements or email Depending on your needs and budget, we can suggest options that provide both quality and a great price.

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