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Thread: CMYK vs. PMS colors

  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Aug 2003

    CMYK vs. PMS colors

    Attached is a jpg. The original file was created in Illustrator.

    The top rectangle in Pantone 1405 M.

    The bottom rectangle is it's CMYK conversion. C: 0, M: 36, Y: 100, K: 63.

    If I litho printed these, would they come out differently?

    What is the advantage of using the Pantone color? From what I understand, Pantone is made up of CMYK inks.

  2. #2
    The quick answer to your question is - YES - the result of printing PANTONE 1405M in a CMYK format will most likely differ somewhat (maybe not much) from the actual swatch of PANTONE 1405M in the PANTONE book.

    Explaining the factors involved makes all the stuff typed below long answer -
    You have a few things going on here with your example. Stepping back a bit you should understand that if you are simply using your monitor as the sole tool to determine final color output of your print project you will experience a fair degree of variation in color from the image on your screen to it's final printing. The reason is you are viewing these colors, your "SPOT COLOR" PANTONE 1405M and it's four color conversion C: 0, M: 36, Y: 100, K: 63, in a three color process (RGB).

    I'm not to sure how the PANTONE inks are manufactured. However, the best way to think of them is like "PAINT" colors. You, the designer, pick a PANTONE ink color from the PANTONE palate because you want a specific color. Say your designing a "Graphic T-shirt" and your client wants the design to be just that special shade of blue. Your tool to introduce a fair degree of certainty that the client gets what they want is the PANTONE book.

    CMYK is a different process for producing color altogether. Your ability to predict a jobs final color output when printing in a four color process is less certain. This doesn't mean you and your client won't be happy with the results, but when it comes to wanting specific colors this is not the method to rely on. There are just too many factors involved; namely the job dictating the press settings which is most likely not yours. Those 1000 business cards for $59 are not what make the printer their money. If your running a project that is producing say 10,000 pieces or more then you might have a larger say in how the press is calibrated, otherwise - you get what you get.

    This is why you might choose to run a job in the CMYK process with a "SPOT" color. The "SPOT" color being one chosen to match a specific PANTONE ink color. Giving you and your client the security that – say the vector graphic in “HOT PINK” placed over the photo your having printed turns out as expected.

    Anyone - please feel free to add anything I've not touched on.
    Last edited by hothousegraphix; 02-28-2005 at 09:35 AM.

  3. #3
    Graphic Artist Fonetik's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    Montréal, Québec
    nothing to add

  4. #4
    Junior Member
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    Oct 2002
    Burlington, Canada
    I actually attend University dedicated to the field of printing and the real benefit which was very accuratly explained above is that you have thick and bold ink film if you use the spot colour. Now on screen is different because you cant see ink trapping (ink films layed down upon one another to form all colours available under CMYK). Bottom line is, if your job is under 4 colors use spots for sure, it is the most economical. If you have a process job but have a large amount of one solid (ie the suggested pantone) it may be worth it (but only from a quality standpoint) to use the additional unit on the press. This is something you should discuss with your client though.

    A quick tidbit actually, Coca Cola as an example will never EVER print its brand coca cola red in CMYK in any of its packaging, because they want to always have that pure bold colour with no dither.

    Hope this helped.
    "Only two things are infinate, the universe and human stupidity"
    -Albert Einstein
    "Only the dead have seen the end of the war."

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    Apr 2009

    Exclamation Coca-Cola red

    I did a great deal of work for Coke (Coca-Cola Dynamic Baseball) and ALL applications were printed in CMYK. Coke Red was originally 100M and 100Y, but in the mid 90s Coke decided that was too orange, and added 10C.

  6. #6
    bidibidibidi clicky2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Easy answer ... CMYK colors are represented by those inks printed on paper in a specific dot pattern. Pantone inks are mixed much like paints (as mentioned already) so their color is solid and pure.

    Pick up a magazine and look at it through a loupe to get an idea of how CMYK is printed.

    Any printer should have a pantone to process book on hand. Just reference that to see how your color is reproduced in CMYK. I tend to shy away from Pantone colors that don't reproduce well in CMYK.

  7. #7
    Junior Member
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    Jun 2009
    I know I'm bumping an old post but I didn't see anyone mention some important things.

    Pantone has a book of CMYK equivalent spot colors. Use that if you want to see how they match. If you want a bright color or a clean solid color, use a spot color. A lot of the Pantone colors are too rich for CMYK.

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