Tag Archives: definitions

RGB vs. CMYK vs. PMS

It’s time to send your design to print, but you’ve got one big question: RGB, CMYK, or PMS? Choosing the right color profile can make all of the difference in the world when it comes to how your design will appear in print. Pick the wrong one, and your colors may not look the way you want. Here’s a simplified breakdown of each of these three color profiles and when you should use each in your marketing designs.


RGB stands for “red, green, blue” and is often used in digital design to accurately represent colors on computer screens. To create a color pallet, this profile blends red, green, and blue light waves to give you the exact shade you’re looking for. RGB is best for projects like:

  • Infographics
  • Websites
  • E-Newsletters
  • Online Catalogs

A viewer’s monitor settings can change the way RGB colors are displayed on the screen, so your digital designs might vary slightly on different computer screens.


Similar to RGB, the CMYK color profile blends multiple colors together to achieve the right look. The colors used in CMYK are cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black), and each color is applied in layers during the printing process to match your chosen hue exactly. You would use a CMYK profile for:

  • Most everyday print materials

This profile is ideal for printed materials, but you should expect very slight variation in your colors throughout the printing process. This is a result of differences in paper, ink levels, temperature, and the process of mixing inks itself. While this variation is barely noticeable, it should be a factor when considering which color profile to use for branded materials.


PMS, or Pantone Matching System, is the most accurate color profile for printed materials. RGB and CMYK colors are blended in real-time during the printing process, which can create inconsistencies in your color. PMS colors are pre-mixed before printing and each color is applied one by one to maintain consistency throughout the print job.

Given its unique accuracy, the PMS color profile is most often used for:

  • Corporate Branded Print Materials

You also have the option of using PMS and CMYK together to achieve a full color palette for full-color photographs and other multimedia printing projects.

Each of these color profiles has its strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to choose one that meets your specific printing needs. Discuss the possibilities with your printer to accurately display the colors of your design and capture the essence of your branding in the printing process.


Common Print Terms: Unpacking the Words

Outline-Format-of-a-Definition-EssayPlacing a print order can be confusing—not just in figuring out what you want, but also in understanding the terminology used by print companies. With printers spending much of their days surrounded by different cover stocks and binding options, it’s easy to forget that the world at large is mystified by their jargon.

This list provides a brief introduction into print terminology, so you can feel better prepared when your printer comes calling.

Binding: Wire, glue, stitching, or other means of fastening sheets together along one edge

Bleed: Printing that runs off the edge of a sheet, so that trimming makes each copy identical

Body copy: The text to be printed in the main part of the project

Cover stock: Heavier paper used for the covers of catalogs, booklets, etc.

Coverage percent: The amount of ink covering the page

Crop mark: Horizontal and vertical lines showing where a photograph or page should be trimmed

DPI: Dots per inch, a measurement for printers and monitors; sometimes known as pixels per inch in web graphics

Finished size: The size of the product once it’s finished (folded, etc.)

Flat size: The size of the product after printing and trimming

Gloss: Light reflecting off an object, whether paper, ink, coating, or more

Gutter: The inside margins of pages toward the binding

Inserts: Additional items within a publication that are not bound in

Laminate: A thin, transparent plastic coating applied to stock to protect it from spills and heavy use

Leaf: One sheet of paper; each side of a leaf is one page

Linen finish: An embossed finish on text paper reminiscent of linen cloth

Page: One side of a leaf

Perforate: To create holes for easy tearing

Process color: Also called CMYK color or four color, it uses four ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to print the spectrum

Proof: The test run of a project, used to show errors and mark changes

Resolution: The sharpness of an image, whether on paper or screen

Saddle stitch: Binding with staples or stitching in the middle of the leafs to hold pages together, typical of magazines

Self cover: When no separate cover stock is used, instead having text stock throughout

Spiral bind: To bind by using a spiral of wire or plastic looped through holes

Text stock: Lighter weight paper, as opposed to cover stock, used for the inside of a publication

A little knowledge goes a long way! With this basic terminology, you’ll be able to communicate your needs more effectively to printing companies and make more informed decisions.