Controlling your color

Problem: Your brand color on your website looks different than it does printed in the annual report. In fact, the color differs when printed on coated and uncoated paper. What’s going on?

The issue is your brand color is being displayed in different color spaces — each has a different color range, or gamut, and they do not overlap completely. So if your brand color is outside the gamut of the color space it is displayed in, it will look different. The diagram below shows the CMYK and RGB gamut–note they overlap only some of the time.
RGB vs. CMYK gamuts

Color spaces

CMYK or Process (stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black). CMYK color is used for print reproduction of color images. It does this by combining the four colors in different densities. If you place a magnifier over a color magazine you’ll see the dots that build a CMYK image.

RGB (stands for red, blue, green). RGB is how a computer displays color. A computer display combines these colors in different intensities to create color images.

Pantone: Pantone is an ink system widely used by printers and designers. Pantone colors are mixtures of different ink colors — similar to how house paint is made. Each Pantone color is designated by a number. Your brand color is probably a Pantone color. Since colors printed on coated paper look different from colors on uncoated paper, Pantone colors come in coated and uncoated versions.

Fixing your color

  • If you are partnering with a designer on a brand color, make sure it can be reproduced successfully in all the color spaces.
  • When your brand guidelines are developed, the brand color should have specifications for all color spaces: Pantone Coated, Pantone Uncoated, CMYK and RGB. The two Pantone colors may have different numbers. See the branding color guideline created for our client Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce below:
Brand color guidelines
  • Calibrate your display–you’ll get more accuracy when you view any kind of color on screen. Here’s some information for Windows. For Apple, OS X System Preferences has a calibration process under “Monitors”.
  • For printed pieces, try to see a sample of the color on the paper type ahead of time. If a brand color match is crucial, consider using the Pantone color. On a CMYK print project, the printer would add an additional printing plate for the Pantone color.

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FACT OF THE MONTH

Adidas got its name from its founder, Adolf “Adi” Dassler. Adi’s brother founded Puma shoes.