The Printing Alphabet

The Printing Alphabet
  • By VPP
  • May 29, 2014

The printing alphabet: CMYK, PMS, RGB…what does it all mean?

The printing industry has seen a shift in recent years that has caused digital printing to become more prevalent than traditional, offset printing.  Digital printing allows for shorter runs and quicker turnarounds than its counterpart.   Also, we no longer have to compromise quality when printing digitally.  Technology has come a long way and state of the art digital machines can produce pieces that rival the quality produced by an offset press.  Both printing processes are necessary…so what’s the difference?

When printing on an offset press, we use Pantone colors, otherwise known as PMS colors or Spot colors.  When printing digitally, we use CMYK or process colors.

Pantone (PMS): Used in offset printing, Pantone colors are made up of ink that is mixed to make the correct color.  Pantone is an industry standard and the manufacturers of the ink are licensed.  Each Pantone color is assigned a number (for example, the green in the VPP logo is PMS 375).

CMYK: Used in digital printing, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black mix to create the image.

And what about RGB?  RGB is not used on printed pieces directly.  But, we need to understand how RGB is related to print.  RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue and is the color model used to transmit what we see on the computer screen.  If you view a PDF proof, remember that the color you see on the screen may not look exactly like the color on the printed piece because of the way the colors are created.  If matching the color is a priority, ask to see a hard copy proof!

…and now we know our ABC’s

More than ink and paper.