Of the many printing decisions you’ll have to make as you get your product in retail stores, one of the more technical ones will be choosing which printing color system will best suit your needs.
CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black
CMYK involves “process” colors—a four-color printing process that combines cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in various quantities on the page. This process is simple and is generally used by most commercial printers for magazines, brochures, and other mass-produced materials.
Pantone Matching System (PMS)
The PMS system is a “spot” color process that uses specific formulas devised by the Pantone company. While CMYK merely approximates colors by leveraging various combinations of its four-color system, PMS is based on a standardized system wherein each color is assigned a unique code based on how many drops of its constituent colors are required to create it.
Which Process Comes Out on Top?
Each process has its advantages that make it suitable for certain types of projects.
- Precision – PMS wins hands down in the precision category. The published color formulas used in PMS guarantee that colors will remain the same, no matter which printer or medium is used. CMYK coloration may be affected by the type of printer used, the production process, and the material being printed on.
- Price – For price, CMYK comes out on top. PMS printing can get expensive fast when significant numbers of colors are needed.
- Flexibility – While both printing options can be considered flexible, CMYK printing is more suitable for creating color gradients and blends, as well as being the better option for photo reproduction.
The bottom line is that while CMYK wins across price and flexibility, PMS far outstrips it in coloring precision. This makes PMS ideal for packaging design and your logo itself, as you’ll be able to guarantee color precision across all of your suppliers and vendors by giving them the PMS code. With this system, every aspect of your product packaging (and any marketing or promotional materials you create) will be consistent with your brand’s color story.
That said, many people marketing their products to retail organizations will be able to get by with CMYK printed packaging due to its cost-effectiveness and adaptability. Just make sure you work with your printing partners to ensure that the coloration noted in your packaging dieline transfers correctly to the print media.
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