Colour profiles explained
31st July, 2014
The theory behind colour helps to guide us in understanding how we perceive different tones and shades. No matter the medium, whether used in web design, logo design or print, the colour you chose needs to clearly communicate your message within the context of your project.
Here at Nexus we often take on full scale branding projects across all forms of marketing media from digital to print. Whatever the colour, we promise to work with it yet it is essential to choose the correct colour profile in order to deliver the right impact for your medium. The colour used for your website design will not necessarily transfer as you anticipate it in your printed material so it is important to understand the differences in colour profiles in order to deliver striking and vibrant imagery throughout your marketing material.
1. Let's begin with CMYK.
This stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black). This is the most common colour profile used for printed material. A CMYK printer uses all four of these light absorbing inks to produce colours which have been blended using optical techniques in order to produce an amazing variety of colours and shades - these are made by varying the amounts of each of the four inks.
CMYK is used in four colour printing using an offset printing process which layers each of the four colours on top of each other. Four individual printing plates are made for each colour which makes this process extremely accurate and delivers high quality printed material. It is a great option for large batches and for printing a document with several colours in it such as magazines and books, this way a true image is produced in each pass.
We design most of our printed jobs in CMYK on the basis that it will be printed by a four colour printing press. Dependant on the job and content we do tend to design with our printing process in mind so we can offer you the most accurate form of proof and manage your colour expectations as much as possible when delivering the finished product.
CMYK is also used in digital printing. You may have noticed when changing the printer ink in your home or office you've seen these four colours in use. It is likely however that for a digital print the artwork will be designed in RGB and then converted into CMYK during the ripping process.
2. RGB: This simply stands for colours Red, Green and Blue. This colour profile creates colours using light and is used in digital production when designing websites and digital marketing. All digital mediums such as tablets, computers, and phones use an RGB profile to display striking pictures and images on their screens. By using light, RGB colours produce bright and vivid colours and if you were to mix all three colours you will produce a pure and clean white.
It is important to realise that during design and proof of your artwork there will be minor variations in the colour you see on the screen to the colour you see in your hands as the finished printed product.
Consider for example that your website is designed beautifully in RGB and your marketing magazine and stationery is designed and printed on a CMYK 4 colour spot printing process. With two or even three colour profiles being used it is certain that you will see very slight differences in the colours of the RGB website to the CMYK print.
RGB must be used to design digital material - if you were to create a design using a CMYK profile it is likely you will find your colours may become muddy and not a true reflection of the colours you actually require.
Otherwise known as the Pantone Matching System. This colour profile will help you match an exact colour, which is critical in branding design. It is likely that a client will want to produce artwork that is representative of their brand identity and will need to have a consistent and recognisable colour throughout all of their marketing content.
Most company brand guidelines will clearly direct the designer specifying the Pantone numbers required in order to produce their logo colour accurately.
This colour matching technique means we can produce printed material that is consistent in colour - a reliable option for those all-important print jobs that require a perfect match for specific images and brand colours. We sometimes find that our clients do want to produce material using CMYK printing but may want to maintain the exact colour of their logo for example - here is where spot printing comes into action.
With spot printing specific Pantone inks are used to make the exact tone according to the Pantone matching system - it will be used alongside the CMYK print and using a spot print process will highlight the areas of the content that requires that specific Pantone colour.
This process still requires a printing plate per colour which runs through the press one by one. The more spot colours used here, the more printing plates are required which can make for a slower turnaround.
And finally it is worth mentioning that your colour can also be hugely affected by the paper it is printed on. With so many varnishes, weights and finishes the same blue can look really quite different on a matt paper to that with a gloss finish on the top. We won't get bogged down with paper weights now but it's always good to understand some of the avenues that affect your colour in order to get the most out of all your marketing material.
So, there we have it, all pretty simple really. We hope you now have a better understanding of the use of colour in digital and print design but if you're still not sure which will be best for your project then feel free to give us a call and we will be happy to chat through the best options for you.
Thanks for reading.