Article - Vector Colors

Vector Colors

When you generate graphics on your computer or images on your digital camera for printing, you normally assume that the print colors will be the same as that you see on the screen. It does not happen because of the difference in the color modes used on the screen of computers and digital cameras and that used for printing. Computer screens and many of the photo editing programs make use of the RGB (Red-Green-Blue) mode, printing is done using the CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black) mode. This is what causes a change in color shades between images on the screen and in print.

RGB Color Format

Electronic displays such as the CRT, digital cameras, LCD monitors, scanners and photo editing programs make use of the RGB color format because of the widest color range it offers. RGB is an additive color mode type (works on the principle of emitted color) in the sense that it combines the primary colors - Red, Green and Blue - in varying degrees to create a range of varied shades. When you mix all three primary colors to their maximum extent, you get the white color. On the other hand, when all the primary colors are mixed to their lowest extent or value, the resulting color is black.

CMYK Color Format

Printers use the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key - or Black) color format for printing on paper. They employ a color separation process wherein a photo or a color graphic is decomposed into layers of single color either digitally or by photographing the image thrice using different filters for each color. In order to create different shades of colors, printers mix the four basic colors in varying amounts. CMYK is considered to be subtractive color process (works on the principle of reflected color), meaning creation of an additional unique color requires more removal or absorption of light. When the first three colors of this format are mixed together, the resulting color is dark brown - not black. It is because of this reason that black is added to completely remove light from the printed picture and your eye perceives the color as black.


The differences between these two color formats can be summarized as follows:

- RGB offers a much wider range of colors than CMYK and because of this reason images shown in the CMYK mode will be seen in true color on the screen.

- In terms of clarity and vibrancy RGB is better than CMYK.

- Most of the RGB colors cannot be duplicated in the CMYK format.

Therefore, if you are creating images or documents with specific colors for printing, it is a good idea to convert the images or documents in RGB mode to CMYK mode. This will ensure that it is printed in the way you want it to be printed. However, word of caution: many software programs do not allow you to work in CMYK.


Pantone refers to the brand name of the organization that released an international color standard. Most artists refer to Pantone when they talk about spot colors. Thus, Pantone is a pre-mixed ink color that closely resembles the international standard for that particular color.

Pantone Vs CMYK

Some of the differences between Pantone and CMYK are:
Pantone is a popularly used spot color system, CMYK is a system of process printing. Pantone spot colors have numbers assigned to them and look the same irrespective of who uses them to print, CMYK colors are created or processed by mixing Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black inks. Due to the differences between presses, press operators and various other factors, CMYK colors can vary from printer to printer and job to job. There is no guarantee that they will be reproduced exactly. Therefore, the use of Pantone is preferred for printing solid colors used in logos, letterheads, etc., whereas CMYK is preferred mode when there is need for mixed colors such as in multi-colored photographs. Printing using Pantone colors is expensive when compared with CMYK process. Companies may use CMYK process to save money, especially if the Pantone color can be duplicated to a great extent. Though most Pantone colors can be matched with colors derived from CMYK format, in certain cases it can be a great challenge.

CMYK - Pros

When there is a need to use more than three colors in a printing job, it is economical to use the four-color CMYK process. This process is good for printing magazines, catalogs and brochures that have many images in them. This is because thousands of different color combinations can be made using the CMYK format. It is also used in home and digital printing.

CMYK - Cons

The CMYK system cannot reproduce certain colors such as Pantone metallic colors. If a company requires color consistency, it may be difficult to achieve that with the CMYK process. Some bright colors may appear dull when printed using CMYK format. Further, if you want to print many copies of documents such as business cards, letterheads, etc., color may not be the same across all the copies. In addition, different printers may create different colors.

Pantone - Pros

If it is possible to reproduce images or designs with the help of less than three colors, it may be cost effective to use Pantone colors instead of CMYK format. Pantone inks ensure sharpness and better color consistency. With Pantone inks you can be sure of exactly what the final result will be and it is even possible to have metallic shades.

Pantone - Cons

Pantone is more expensive compared to CMYK when it comes to smaller runs and for jobs that require several different colors. Graphics and images printed using Pantone inks are restricted to one to four colors and with some degree of shading.

Summarizing, high-end printing machines provide the flexibility of mixing CMYK and Pantone printing to enable you to have the best of both systems. In the past, desktop publishers used to send files to printers after converting RGB to CMYK format. However, many desktop publishers forget to convert the files and end up with poor quality of printing. In order to overcome this problem, printers have started receiving files in RGB format and doing the conversions at their end. Therefore, the key to getting good print results is that the desktop publisher and the printer must consult each other during the course of a printing assignment.

a Gray Matter Creations service

Logo Design | Vector Conversion | Get Started! | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Contact Us
JPG to Vector | JPEG to Vector | Raster to Vector | Logo to Vector | Image to Vector

Like us on Facebook and get a $15 discount for logos, and $5 for conversions!