Every working day I hear and use the words CMYK and PMS. For those closely involved in this industry it’s common lingo, but to a business owner wanting to consistently reproduce their company logo, the terminology can result in some confusion.
First, let’s start at the beginning. What is a PMS colour and where does it fit into colour printing?
Generally printing is produced out of four base colours – cyan, magenta, yellow and black. This give you an excellent range, and to the naked eye, most colours and images can be successfully reproduced through this method. It’s also the most cost effective way to achieve a wide spectrum of colours, and these days, cost is usually the deciding factor.
Here’s an example of how these four ink colours can make up a medium blue.
There is also another way to produce this blue, and that’s by using one ink instead of four, commonly known as a PMS colour.
For those of you who need the technical definition, PMS is the anagram for Pantone Matching System. It’s a colour space used within a variety of industries, primarily printing, but also in the manufacture of paint, fabric and plastics.
You might be now asking yourself, ‘if I can make the PMS colour out of this cyan, magenta, yellow and black mix (CMYK), then why would I bother mixing up a special ink?’ There are a few times when we recommend our customers go the ‘purist’ version.
If I can make the PMS colour out of a cyan, magenta, yellow and black mix (CMYK), then why would I bother mixing up a special ink?
HARD TO MATCH COLOURS
Although CMYK printing provides a wide gamut of colours generally accepted by most, PMS inks provide a pure alternative for those difficult or impossible to match. These include any metallic or fluro colours, some oranges, browns, purples and blues.
Although it may be difficult to see on screen, PMS Blue 280 is a perfect example. The pure ink colour is far deeper than the CMYK version. If this is your corporate colour, then using a PMS might be the best way to ensure consistency over all of your marketing collateral.
RUNNING A FEATURE COLOUR THROUGHOUT THE JOB
Often in high end art books or publications there is a feature colour throughout the entire document. Although printing presses have come a long way with their ability to maintain this, it can be affected by what else appears on the page. Solid colours, flesh tones, heavy and light screens can all affect the ability to ensure your ‘feature colour’ is consistent. The best way to achieve this is by using a PMS colour.
METALLICS AND FLUROS
Although this does fall under the ‘HARD TO MATCH’ section above, metallics and fluros are worth a mention on their own as hard becomes impossible.
The only option for these colours is to go to a PMS. A few extra tips, uncoated papers will flatten both the vibrancy of a fluro and the shimmer on a metallic. The pigment in fluro ink is also very light sensitive, so over time, the colour will fade
HANDY REFERENCE TOOLS
We’ve all seen PMS books. They’re splashed across the marketing collateral of most printing companies, but another handy reference tool is a PMS BRIDGE BOOK. These show you a visual of the solid PMS colour and the CMYK representation of it. In most cases only the trained eye will spot the difference, but in some of those ‘difficult’ colours the gap will become more obvious.
CREATING A STYLE GUIDE
Many companies have their marketing or design team set up a style guide. This governs their corporate material and often covers what ink colours to use on different substrates and circumstances. This is your best bet to maintain your corporate colours without setting unrealistic expectations or high costs.