We get asked many times, what is the difference between CMYK and PMS,

and thought we would give you a breakdown on this. We also try to explain that

what you see on your screen will not always match what is printed.


CMYK is the use of cyan, magenta, yellow and black to make up the colour

you want. It’s not as precise as PMS which is exact. CMYK takes a mix of the

colours to arrive at the colour wanted. Typically, you’ll get a pretty

close match to the colour but there is always some slight difference.



CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) In four-colour process (CMYK) printing, primary colours (Cyan,

Magenta, Yellow, and Black) are mixed together to produce most of the colours that you see in normal magazines and colour

books. While there are six-colour colour spaces, these are much less common and are used for specific printing techniques.


CYMK is what the vast majority of commercial printers do, although there is a wide range of options. Images and artwork

targeted for reproduction in a CMYK colour space must be properly formulated to print correctly. If you’ve had the

misfortune of trying to get an accurate print from an RGB image, you’ve just had a glimpse into the technical realm of

4CP (four colour process) printing. To further confuse the issue, printers will often refer to their presses as 4, 5, or 6 colour

presses. While this makes sense to print designers, it is often lost on other customers. These numbers refer to the maximum

numbers of colours that can be run in a single pass. For example, a tri-fold brochure could be designed to be printed in CMYK,

plus a spot varnish, plus a metallic spot colour. This ‘job’ is known as a six-colour job since there are six colours of inks that

will be run in a single pass.


PMS (Pantone Matching System)

Spot colours (also known as PMS colours, and officially as Pantone Matching System colours), are specific colour formulas

that will reproduce accurately in print. Instead of simulating colours by combining primary colours, spot (PMS) colours are premixed

with existing and published colour formulas. Because of this, you are nearly guaranteed that your PMS 186 from one

printer will be matched by a PMS 186 from another printer. Better yet, often these PMS colours are premixed by the ink

factory, leaving even less to chance. “Spot” colours refer to the actual printing process by which they are applied.

There can be a substantial price difference between both options and you’ll want to adhere to your company/organizations

branding guidelines. If accuracy in colour is important, then hands down go PMS.

When it comes to design, we recommend that you use an Adobe program, such as Illustrator or InDesign, as when you use the

colour settings in those programs (such as CMYK or PMS), you will get a more accurate representation of what the colour could

print out as. If you're wanting to keep costs down on final printing stage, we suggest digital printing, and setting your file to CMYK.


RGB is what your screen shows and is not recommended at all for file setup, as digital printing machines are CMYK based printers, and the colour will more than likely not match to what you have created and see on your screen. If you're still unsure on any of the above mentioned, we always suggest that you contact us for further information and we will be happy to offer advice on what is best to use for what you're wanting to create or have printed. So when putting your artwork together, and you have images, make sure that you change the images from RGB to CMYK before placing in your document or file to ensure it prints right.



If you're still unsure on any of the above mentioned, we always suggest that you contact us for further information

and we will be happy to offer advise on what is best to use for what your wanting to create or have printed.


production printing in CMYK

Ph (02) 9712 8562


72 Ramsay Road, Five Dock NSW 2046

© 2018 First Class Digital

All Rights Reserved.

Terms & Conditions