Color Profiles Explained: RGB vs. CMYK vs. Pantone

Color Profiles Explained RGB CMYK PantoneLet’s explore the fascinating world of color profilesToday, we will focus on these three: RGB, CMYK, and Pantone. Each has its unique purpose and application, making them essential tools for designers and marketers.

Understanding the differences is important.

When we create logos here at Strottner Designs, we design using Pantone colors from the Pantone Matching System (PMS), and you will see why below.  However, in the Style Guide that we provide to you along with your logo, we specify the color equivalent used in the design in Pantone, RGB, CMYK, and also HEX.

RGB (Red, Green, Blue)

RGB is the color profile used for digital displays, such as screens, monitors, and projectors. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Additive Color Model:
    • RGB combines red, green, and blue light to create a wide spectrum of colors.
    • It’s based on the additive color model, where colors are added together to produce new hues.
    • RGB values range from 0 to 255 for each channel (red, green, blue).
  2. When to Use RGB:
    • Web design: Websites, social media graphics, and online ads.
    • Digital art: Illustrations, animations, and photography.
    • Screens: Anything displayed on monitors, TVs, or mobile devices.
  3. Pros:
    • Vibrant and bright colors.
    • Large gamut for creative freedom.
    • Easy to work with in digital tools.
  4. Cons:
    • Not suitable for print (CMYK is better for that).
    • Colors may appear differently on various screens.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key/Black)

CMYK is the standard color profile for printing, such as business cards, letterhead, envelopes, posters, magazines, rack cards, brochures, and booklets. Here’s what you should know:

  1. Subtractive Color Model:
    • CMYK subtracts colors by layering cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks.
    • It’s used in offset printing, digital printing, and other print processes.
    • CMYK values typically range from 0% to 100%.
  2. When to Use CMYK:
    • All print materials: Brochures, business cards, posters, magazines, etc.
    • Brand consistency: Logos and corporate identity.
  3. Pros:
    • Accurate color representation on paper.
    • Predictable results across different printers.
    • Ideal for professional printing.
  4. Cons:
    • Limited color gamut compared to RGB.
    • Colors may look duller due to ink absorption.


Pantone is a standardized color system used for precise color matching (as mentioned at the beginning, this is why we use the Pantone Matching System for logo colors). Here’s the scoop:

  1. Spot Colors:
    • Pantone provides a set of predefined colors, each with a unique code.
    • These colors remain consistent across different materials and printers.
    • Pantone swatches are often used for branding and logos.
  2. When to Use Pantone:
    • Branding materials: Business cards, letterheads, packaging.
    • Special projects: Custom colors for specific purposes.
  3. Pros:
    • Exact color consistency.
    • Widely recognized in the design industry.
    • Ideal for maintaining brand integrity.
  4. Cons:
    • Costly (requires custom ink mixing).
    • Not suitable for digital displays.

Color Profiles Summary

Color Profiles Explained by San Antonio Graphic Design CompanyIn summary, choose your color profile wisely based on your medium and purpose. Meaning, whether you’re designing for screens or print, understanding RGB, CMYK, and Pantone color profiles is essential in ensuring that your design comes out as you expected, and it will empower you to create stunning visuals!

Whether you need a logo designed, print collateral designed, or a website, contact Strottner Designs to discuss your upcoming project! ️