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  • Writer's picturelauraluchak

All the Pretty Colours: PMS & CMYK

This is a Pantone swatch - and every decorator has one.

What are Pantone Colours or PMS?

PMS stands for Pantone Matching System, which refers to all the colours you find on Pantone swatches. Ever had to pick out paint? You have probably seen a pantone swatch. I could try and explain this to you myself, but it is really best described by the company:

" the world-renowned authority on color and provider of color systems and leading technology for the selection and accurate communication of color across a variety of industries. The PANTONE® name is known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer...."

What is CMYK?

CMYK, which stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (black), is a colour model, that essentially refers to the 4-colour printing process itself. These 4 colours, found in your standard printer's ink cartridge, are the 4 colours used to make every other colour! Kinda of like when you were in preschool, and you learned that the primary colours could be mixed to make other colours: blue + yellow = green. That's how it works with this model, but with a lot more precision and much better results.

What is the Difference and How Does it Apply to Me?

If your decoration includes 4-colour process printing (digital printing), you want to make sure you provide the exact CMYK breakdown for your logo (so you don't end up with a light red for your Maroon Brewing shirt).

If your decoration includes methods like silk-screen (screen print), pad printing, powder coating or embroidery, it is more relevant to provide a PMS colour for you logo to ensure the best colour-matching is achieved.

While most suppliers are aware that you want to match the colour of your logo to the colour thats printed, and PMS and CMYK can be compatible with one another depending on the shade, I would still recommend knowing the PMS and CMYK numbers associated with your logo's colouring, especially if it is a specific color that is not as generic as, say, black or navy.

Further reading:

"PANTONE CMYK Guides provide a comprehensive palette of 2,868 colors achievable in four-color process printing. The PANTONE COLOR BRIDGE® GUIDES coated and uncoated compare solid PANTONE Colors to their closest possible match in four-color process (CMYK), providing values for best reproducing colors on a computer monitor, output device or printing press."

Stock Colours

Depending on the item and the printing process, there are occasions where you will not be able to get the colour of item you are looking for, whether it is the paint of the item itself or the colours used to print.

Think about the stock colours that are offered for cars. Honda doesn't offer teal blue as a ready-made-straight-off-the-shelf option. Why? Because it isn't that popular, and it probably costs them more money to store the car for the amount of time it takes to sell it, than it would to not have painted it at all.

The same goes for suppliers. When it comes to paints, many printers don't offer colours like "highlighter purple" for small order quantities, like 100 or 500pcs., because they simply don't have the time or space to hold a gallon of it for another...year? 3 years? 5 years? The amount of paint they need to buy is large and disproportionate to how much they would use to paint or print 400 openers.

Of course, any colour can be found and used, for the right price, but if you are trying to remain economical (and consistent) with your logo, try to keep this in mind, as a more general or easily matched colour could save you time, money and the consistency of brand recognition.

Custom Colours

Does your logo already include colours like highlighter pink, bronze or lavendar? Don't sweat, this is not the end of the world. Fortunately, as technology evolves, so do the different methods of decoration and design.

Items like coasters are printed through 4 colour process and you can literally have an entire rainbow or a 1 colour logo, without effecting your cost.

Some items are a little harder to find, but not impossible.  For example, do you want a multi colour bottle opener? Look into epoxy-doming, which involves full colour printing a sheet of paper that is placed under an epoxy/plastic dome, so you can have all the colours you want (which will never fade or chip) for the same price as a 1 colour epoxy. On the other hand, to print 4 colour logos through pad or screen printing can include multiple set-up charges, much higher minimum order quantities and an overall higher cost.


I wrote this article for you, the buyer, as well as me, the supplier. I hope it helps you understand the different methods and options available when it comes to recreating your logo or preferred image (i.e. if you're making swag for a pride-themed event your brewery is sponsoring or hosting, the many colours of the pride flag will be best reproduced affordably on certain items as opposed to others). I also hope it helps you understand why we cannot always give you exactly what you want for a reasonable price. We really aren't trying to gouge you, certain types of printing are just more expensive. But hey, if you have a very specific vision in mind, sometimes that will be the price you have to pay. It all depends on what you are looking for, your priorities and what you are willing to spend.

Just remember: a little research, knowing what to look for and having an idea of what questions to ask (and what questions will be asked of you) can reduce time and money when it comes to purchasing customized products .

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