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What’s the Difference Between CMYK and Pantone?


Do you know the difference between CMYK and Pantone printing?  Here’s your chance to learn. As all good print companies know, there are many variables when it comes to the printing color process. At Printing Solutions, we  take these factors into consideration and help our customers choose the printing color system that is best for their printing needs: CMYK or Pantone.

CMYK, also known as the four color process, stands for the colors used in the printing color process: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. This printing color process is generally used in inkjet printers like those found in homes and offices. It works by combining the four colors in various ways to produce a wide range of secondary colors. Pantone printing, on the other hand, is color specific and takes highly precise mixes of ink to create an exact color.  It uses pre-determined colors to “match” a certain color used in the design process. Thus, it’s known as the Pantone Matching System.


The main difference between CMYK and Pantone printing is the level of accuracy. The Pantone process is more consistent and able to produce colors closer in shade to the ones seen in the digital design stage. However, it is also more costly than CMYK in most cases, especially if the print job is small. With CMYK, it’s easier to bundle different jobs together than it is with Pantone. For a Pantone print job, the machine has to be prepped for each different print job. Therefore, it’s more cost effective to run large print jobs with the Pantone system rather than small ones.

 In addition to accuracy and cost, CMYK and Pantone also differ when it comes to whether or not they can be used in conjunction with RGB, an on-screen color system. RGB stands for red, green and blue and is used only for online work.  It is not used for print production. However, RGB can be converted into the CMYK printing color process. Although, there will be a noticeable change in color because the color structure is built differently. RGB only works with CMYK and not Pantone.

The differences between CMYK and Pantone should be consider when deciding which color process to use. For consistent branding and logos, Pantone is a better choice. For print jobs where exact color isn’t a concern, CMYK is the best choice. It all depends on the nature of the print job and budgetary constraints. Talk to one of our friendly specialist to find out which option is best for you.



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