We all love colour… but how many of us know how to use it properly?

Of all the FAQ’s we get asked about design, some of the most frequent relate to COLOUR. One of our logo clients recently asked:

“Why is the CMYK version so dull compared to the
RGB version?”

…My answer was: “Sorry, I haven’t got time to explain that one properly if you want your design job to go print today – just trust me (I’m a northerner), it’ll work when it’s printed!… ‘The short answer‘ is you’re viewing cmyk on an rgb screen, so it doesn’t look right, but when you print it – it will!”

Luckily they were happy with the short answer!

Here is a slightly longer answer for those of you that are interested to find out
a bit more…

A VERY brief colour history. The Colour Spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye.

From using natural pigments for cave paintings over 30,000 years ago to modern day colour therapy, colour has had a big impact on our lives. To make things a bit easier, in 1671 our good friend Mr Newton divided the spectrum into seven named colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet… cheers Issac!

There are now 5 main colour systems you need to be aware of in today’s digital age, they are:

RGB, Hexadecimal (or Web Colours), HSB, CMYK & Pantone.

OK, here we go, the first 3 are to do with computers and the last 2 are to do with printing:


RGB System: or Red, Green, Blue are basically the colours we see on a computer screen. There are 256 possible levels of brightness for each component in an RGB colour.

Hexadecimal System: or Web colours, are colours used in designing web pages. Hexadecimal colour codes are always 6 digits beginning with a hash (#). eg. Black is #000000, White is #FFFFFF & Bright Red is #FF0000. When producing your website make sure that you use only ‘Web Safe’ colours, which will look the same across all computer platforms.

HSB System: or Hue, Saturation, Brightness is based on three different ways of varying colour. Hue: a particular gradation of colour (i.e. the shade or tint of a colour) Saturation: the vividness of hue (the degree of difference from gray) Brightness: the percentage of brightness of the colour. However, Unless you’re specifically working with images in Photoshop (or similar) you don’t have to worry too much about this one… Hooray!


CMYK System: or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Key (Black) are the 4 ink colours used in 4 colour process printing. All of the colours are created by mixing these 4 inks.

Pantone Matching System: or PMS, is a colour swatch system used for printing ‘Spot’ colours. Basically the printer uses different cans of pre-mixed ink to match different colour swatches (as opposed to 4 colour process printing where a mixture of the 4 CMYK inks are used to make the different colours).

If you print an RGB file in CMYK it loses it’s vibrancy and the colours come out dull or ‘milky’. The same dull or ‘milky’ appearence happens if you view a CMYK file on an RGB screen.

“So, should my logo be in RGB OR CMYK colour mode?” I hear you shouting…BOTH: RGB for your website / online usage and CMYK for your Leaflets, Brochures, Packaging, POS & Promotions.

There y’go, I did say it was the short answer!

If you have any design related questions or problems, or need any ‘longer answers’ please contact us and we’ll try to help!…