color printing brochure bindery

Color Printing 101: CMYK vs. Pantone Colors

Which System is Best for Color Printing? CMYK or PMS?

Color printing is a standard practice for creating marketing materials, packaging, signage, and other business needs. For some printed materials, reproducing an exact color is not a high priority. However, for branded materials, reproducing an exact color match is integral to the business identity. For example, what if Tiffany & Co.® presented a customer with a cornflower blue box instead of the iconic robin egg blue?

CMYK vs. Pantone color (PMS) for Color Printing

The acronym CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Basically, four inks—cyan, magenta, yellow and usually black—are combined in various proportions to create an infinite number of colors on a printed item. The advantage of CYMK color printing is that many printed pieces can be run using the same inks on the same equipment. This saves time and money. Most home inkjet printers are based on CMYK. Plus, commercial printers offer CYMK color printing as an affordable, accessible option for their clients.

However, CYMK has the disadvantage of not guaranteeing a 100% exact color match. When artwork is created on different computers and viewed through different monitors, what may look correct to the naked eye might not translate to the expected color. In these cases, clients may be disappointed by their delivered color printing order. In addition, coatings used in the production process can change the look of a color. Recycled paper, which can be slightly darker than pure white paper, can change the look, as well. A system for color standardization is not part of the CYMK process.

So how can exact color matching for color printing be done? This is where PMS, or Pantone Matching System, is utilized. You may have heard of Pantone LLC for its “color of the year” campaigns. Formerly a printing company, patented Pantone colors have become the international standard for 1,867 specific color shades, based on the Pantone Formula Guide.

color printing pantone cmyk

While using a Pantone color ensures an exact color match, the color printing process with Pantone colors can be more costly. First of all, Pantone color inks are more expensive than CMYK inks. Plus, the print equipment and plates need to be cleaned between each ink used, and jobs may require multiple pass throughs if using more than one Pantone ink color. Finally, the proprietary Pantone color guides are an added cost. The extra time and expense may make PMS color printing inaccessible for some businesses.

Make An Impression with Color Printing. Call Brumley Printing at (817) 336-5551 for ideas.

5 Tips for Color Printing with CMYK vs Pantone Inks

Given the differences between CMYK and PMS, businesses can protect their branding and still address budget limitations in the following ways:

  1. Tools are available to convert Pantone colors to CMYK colors, taking coatings and other variables into account. However, it is important to note that while the colors may be close, an exact match is not guaranteed.
  2. Discuss CMYK conversions with a reliable commercial printer, such as Brumley Printing in Fort Worth. With years of color printing and marketing experience, they can advise on color selections and create a great match without Pantone ink.
  3. Utilize PMS color printing for letterhead, business cards, packaging, and other printed pieces where an exact color is essential to the integrity of the branding. Limit these items to one or two colors to help with the cost.
  4. Choose CYMK for print ads, brochures, and other multi-color items where slight variances won’t be as noticeable.
  5. Consider a two-step color printing process, where one step uses a spot printed vital Pantone color, and the rest of the colors are printed using CMYK in a second step.

In summary, when branding and company identification requires an exact color match, PMS color printing is the best choice. Conversely, when colors can have slight variations and lower costs are prioritized, CMYK is the way to go!

color printing picking out color for printing

What color printing needs does your company have? Brumley Printing is your best choice for Fort Worth commercial printing. Our family-owned printing company has years of experience with color marketing materials. We will provide you with expert advice, high quality printing, and affordable prices.

To get started, call (817) 336-5551, or complete our contact form. We look forward to working with you!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Scroll to Top