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Color Profiles and Printing Explained: What’s the Difference Between CMYK and RGB?

We’ve shown you how the psychology behind color can help us understand how collateral like websites and brochures are perceived. The medium doesn’t really matter – whether in print or on the Web, you want your marketing materials and branding to look sharp. When it comes to choosing colors, though, you need to be careful to use the right ones depending on the context of your project. So what are the differences between color profiles for the Web and for print?

There are three basic types of color schemes: CMYK, RGB and PMS. CMYK, a four-color printing process that uses only cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks, is primarily used for printing brochures, business cards, posters and other paper-based products. RGB, which uses mixtures of red, green and blue, is the preferred color profile for digital devices and computer screens and appears much brighter than CMYK colors. Finally, the Pantone Matching System (PMS) is often used to match colors in fabrics like for t-shirts and other painted materials. Sometimes a specialized blended ink, or spot color, is also used in Pantone schemes to properly match unique colors.

Knowing how color palettes work is key to any graphic design project. Here is an awesome guide to help you decide when to best use CMYK, RGB or Pantone.

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