Understanding Color Profiles | McNeil Printing in Orem Utah

Understanding Color Profiles

If you’re in marketing or design, then you’ve probably experienced a moment when you realized that your carefully crafted design didn’t print or display the way you expected and now you’re facing the problem of having a website, business cards, or brochures that don’t quite match your brand colors.

As you know, maintaining a strong brand means keeping a consistent visual identity. Understanding the difference between various color profiles will help you to set up your files in the proper format to achieve consistent colors across a variety of media.

RGB Color Profile

When your design will appear on a digital device (such as a tablet, computer screen, or phone), your ideal profile will be the RGB color profile. RGB colors have the widest range of color possibilities and look brilliant when lit up on a screen, so they are your best choice when designing online ads or websites.

This color profile has the base colors of Red, Green, and Blue. Typically in RGB format, a color is defined by assigning a value between 0 and 255 for each base color. For example, a navy blue color would be: R=43 G=54 B=110. RGB colors are also often expressed as hexadecimal codes preceded by a hashtag. For example, a forest green would be expressed like this: #376839.
RGB Color Profile

CYMK Profile

When designing for a printed format, the best color profile to use is CMYK, which uses the base colors of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (or Black). These colors are usually expressed as percentages of each base color, for example a deep plum color would be expressed like this: C=74 M=89 Y=27 K=13.

If you’ve ever changed the ink in your personal inkjet printer, you’re probably already familiar with the colors in the CMYK profile. These four colors combine to print in vivid rich colors and can achieve the deepest black. They are excellent for any kind of digital or offset printing from business cards to posters and signs.
CMYK Color Profile

Pantone Profile

The Pantone Profile is a proprietary matching system (PMS) developed by The Pantone Corporation in 1963 and has become the industry standard for defining a spot color as opposed to mixed colors.

While it doesn’t always work for digital printing, pantone colors are a good way to define and preserve specific colors to maintain brand integrity. They are particularly useful when using offset printing for something like a logo or letterhead which involves only a few solid spot colors.

Choosing Color Profiles

Since you’re going to need a variety of both digital and printed material for your brand, it’s helpful to know the most effective color profile for your project. It’s also important to be able to convert your project format to any profile to maintain brand consistency.

Color Profile Selection
Keep in mind that getting a perfect color match can be challenging because many of the colors in an RGB format simply aren’t available in a CMYK profile. Also, specific pantone colors like bright blues and oranges may not have an exact match in CMYK. If you’re developing a brand or ad campaign, you should take into consideration the limitations of your specific colors.

This infographic designed by The Logo Company is helpful for a quick reference guide. Click the image to view a larger version. For more information or assistance preparing your design files for print, please contact us and we will be happy to help!

Understanding Color Profiles Infographic from The Logo Company