CMYK, RBG, PMS, HEX – What does it all mean?

I’m talking color today! Since I missed a day in the 31 Day Blog Challenge yesterday, I decided to beef it up today! šŸ˜‰

If you do any printing, these acronyms might look familiar. Since I work with this every day, I realized that I know a few things that some people may not – and I thought I’d share a few interesting bits.

As quilters, you may have noticed on the selvages of fabric yardage, there are colored spots. They are usually circles, but sometimesĀ the spots are different shapes (when the designers are being fun!) and the number of dots change from fabric to fabric.

Each spot represents an ink color used in the print. Each one of those colors is mixed and printed individually. To make sure colors print correctly, the PMS or Pantone Matching System is used. Ā PMS colors are used primarily in fabric printing and screen printing where only one color can be used in a screen, or printing plate. There is a PMS color matching guide book printed each year, where specific colors are numbered. Since these colors are printed as hard copy, and they all match exactly – you know if you ask for PMSĀ 802C, you’ll get exactly what’s printed under 802C – which happens to beĀ a neon green.

802C Ink Color

Most ink manufacturers have a mixing guide based on PMS – so when we go to mix an ink, we can look up the number with the ink maker and find out the exact measurements of base ink colors to Ā use. For instance, the grey colors below are PMS 431 (lighter) and PMS 432 (darker). The formulas to mix these two colors are very different, even though they are close to the same color.