Shades of Gray: How Color Types Keep Your Brand Consistent in Print and on the Web

The Origin Smart Marketing brand colors seem straightforward: orange and green. But they are also PMS 716 C, PMS 716 U, C-4 M-57 Y-91 K-0, R-237 G-119 B-0, #EB8533 (actually, that’s just the orange!). This may look like gobbledygook, but all these color codes keep our Origin orange consistent, whether you see it online, in print, or embroidered on one of our Solutionistas’ t-shirts.

Ever wondered why your logo on your brochure or letterhead looked slightly different from the logo on your website? It’s likely color types are to blame. Here’s a look at the most popular color types and their best applications so you can guarantee your brand colors stay consistent no matter the medium.

Pantone® Matching System

The Pantone® Matching System (aka PMS . . . yah, we know.) is a patented collection of nearly 2,000 colors. It’s the granddaddy of color systems, and every graphic designer worth her salt knows Pantone®. Give Pantone® color codes to your offset printer to guarantee your brand and logo play consistently on your stationery and other print materials.

CMYK, aka the Four-Color Process

CMYK is also used for printing. While Pantone® is ideal for offset printing, CMYK can be used by offset and digital printers alike. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—the four colors from which all other colors are created. Give your printer CMYK color codes for your full-color print projects, from billboards to postcards.

RGB Color Type

To match your brand colors on the web to those in print, use RGB. RGB stands for red, green, and blue. Give your web designer RGB codes for your colors to play consistently on screens of all sizes. But don’t give your printer RGB codes—screen illumination is what keeps RGB colors true. In print, your logo will look dull.

HEX Color Type

HEX color codes are the darlings of your web designer. A HEX color code is essentially a simplified RGB code that’s easy to copy and paste into a variety of web applications. A simple Google query to “convert RGB to HEX” will allow you to change your RGB codes to HEX (and vice versa). Because HEX is simplified RGB, only use HEX codes for onscreen applications.

Color Type Cheat Sheet

Color Type Use Best Suited for . . . Looks Like
PMS (Pantone® Matching System) offset printing stationery

spot colors on brochures

PMS 710 C (for coated)

PMS 710 U (uncoated)

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) aka four-color process offset printing

digital printing


flyers & posters


C-41 M-0 Y-97 K-8
RGB (red, green, blue) onscreen/web anything viewed on a screen R-105 G-190 B-40
HEX (hexadecimal color) onscreen/web websites #3DB7E4

If you’ve ever wondered why your graphic designer gives you a full page of color codes along with your new logo, now you know! Remember to give your printer Pantone® or CYMK and your web designer RGB or HEX. Still confused? Contact the Solutionistas for help!

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