Category Archives: PMS Colour Guide

PMS vs CMYK – What’s the Difference?

Have you wondered what’s the fuss about colours? What is PMS and how is it different to what we traditionally know as the four basic colours that make up all colours, CMYK???

PMS stand for Pantone Matching System, a system that offers standardisation of colours across all industries that manufacture coloured paint, fabric and plastics. By standardising the colours, different manufacturers in different location can all refer to the Pantone system to make sure colours match without direct contact with one another.

However not all printing methods use PMS to reproduce your artwork. Printing on clothing, (screen printing, digital), items such as pens, metal objects etc (pad printing) use PMS colours.

Some methods of printing (ie offset printing) use a CMYK colour process. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. These are the primary colours for print. They use a percentage of each of the four colours to create a new colour (see below).

When providing a PMS colour to a printer, their computer systems will automatically convert your PMS colour to its closest match of a CMYK colour.

Here is an example using the colour Green:
Printing color CMYKTo print the above green it needs to be broken down into four different parts.

Printing a PMS colorTo print this green you use the Pantone ink for Pantone colour 362 and it does not have to be broken down.

Converting PMS to CMYKThe above image of the orange is an example of what happens when you convert a PMS colour to CMYK. You’ll see that you can lose a bit of the depth of the original colour.

You also need to consider what is the material being printed? Is it fibrous – will it absorb some colour more than others?

The Solution!

If you’re worried about not getting an exact match of colour for your logo, the printer can print off a sample sheet of colour swatches, using 5-10% gradient of the colour (for a small fee) to best identify the closest match to your PMS colour.

Alternatively, the printer can use a PMS ink but this will substantially increase the price of your job, particularly if it is a small print run (100’s not 1000’s).

Its all about the Colour!