Breaking The Color Code!


When we hear the word code, we often think of puzzles or computers- but a graphic designer use several different color codes. Each code is specific to the color space, application and process. Frequently our design team will say, the color on your monitor may not look exactly like your PMS reference. Why? Coding!


Let's break down the 4 types of codes in graphic design:


  1. Hex codes- Web design. A color system used in HTML, CSS, and SVG—working on a project in Canva? Hex codes are what you need! Each hex code refers to a particular color and allows you to collaborate with others on your team to ensure that you are all talking about the same neon yellow.

  2. RGB – screens. The full-color spectrum in sunlight breaks down into individual colors (wavelengths). The RGB system uses light to build colors. RGB values refer to the intensity of red, green, and blue light needed to create a specific color. These are references used for digital displays.

  3. CMYK – offset printing & digital printing. RGB uses light to create color. CMYK, however, is the process of printing small dots of colored ink on a white piece of paper to create an image. What combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (K) ink creates a specific color? CMYK values represent the individual percentage of each color ink that makes the specific color combination (they add up to 100). These are color codes used in printing on paper with a printer.

  4. Pantone- referred to as a PMS color, is a lot like mixing a paint color. PMS colors are specifically mixed from an extended range of color inks to create one unique color. The clarity, consistency, and brightness of Pantone colors make them ideal for logos and branding. The color reference is unique to your brand identity and should be in your brand guide.


How Does Your PMS Color Reference Come Into Decoration?


Screen separations for silkscreen printing for example will require spot color, one PMS reference and one screen per color.


Your brand guide serves as the rules, the gatekeeper for color, font, placement on promotional materials.


Which popular web-based program is not vectored? Read more here.

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