What Are the Differences Between Pantone®, CMYK & RGB?

Tidbits & Facts About The Pantone®, CMYK & RGB Color Models

Currently, the two most widely used color models are RGB(Red, Green, Blue) and CMYK(Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key[black]) Both CMYK and RGB are color models that represent a specific subset of the color space visible to the human eye.

RGB Additive Color Model

The RGB Color Model

Digital representations of images are generally produced using light in the RGB color model. RGB is a light additive color model, meaning that colors have to be added together to produce lighter colors and ultimately white.

As seen in this diagram, when 100% Red, Green and Blue are combined, you get absolute white. However When Red and Green are added, you get Yellow; Green and Blue make Cyan; Red and Blue make Magenta.

Close Up of RGB Pixels on Computer Screen


Whether you are reading this article on an older CRT or a brand new LED flat screen, the computer monitor maps using a series of Red, Green and Blue pixels. When all of the pixels light up to full intensity, your screen is white, when they are all off, your screen is black, and any color in between is created by pixels illuminated in different values

CMYK Subtractive Color Model

The CMYK Color Model

Most home grade, consumer & industrial printers use CMYK inks colors to reproduce images. CMYK color is a subtractive color model, meaning, that ink must be removed in order to achieve lighter colors with the lightest color you can achieve being the surface you are printing on. You do not have to combine ink colors to create standard black, however another black known as chromatic black is created from the combination of colors without the use of black ink.


Close up zoom of printed LCI Paper logo



When printing four color process, each color is put on the paper separately, and then layered. Zoom in on a printed image and you will notice half-toning or little dots of color layered over one another. As shown here to the left, this layering of dots is what creates the perception of a solid. To prevent offsetting & moire pattern effects each ink must be printed at a specific angle and the dots perfectly aligned.

CMYK Printer Inks




Industrial color offset presses, high end color laser printers, as well as the home printer used to print your family photos use the CMYK color model. Some ink jet photo printers do include additional ink cartridges for Light Cyan, Magenta and shades of Black. These extra inks are helpful for smoother color transitions especially when looking for super crisp, lab quality photographs.

Pantone Color Deck

The Pantone® Color Model

Pantone® is a color space that defines an arbitrary collection of colors that do not represent a specific color model. An extremely popular tool, The Pantone Matching System® is used among most conventional printers as a way to recreate colors and artwork by referring to a standardized guide. To maintain consistency Pantone® colors are used as a standard for everything from branded logos to official flags.

Closest color representation matching with pantone




Because Pantone® is a reproducible standard, we have compared & matched our paper collection to the best color representation within the Pantone Matching System®. This information is helpful for printing consistency throughout your invitation pieces. This information can be found under the Specifications for each of our specialty papers and envelopes.

Within any desktop publishing software you can create your own conversion of the Pantone® color.


  • Gamut – The size or breadth of a particular color space
  • Color Model – The expression of colors within a color space
  • Color Space – The representation of a specific array of visible colors that maps color values in a given color model.
  • PMS – Pantone® Matching System
  • Process Color – Four Color, or CMYK color model used in color printing
  • Moire Pattern – An interference pattern created by color screens overlaid at an angle, with process printing, they are inevitable, however typically so tight that they are not recognizable to the human eye.

Pantone® is a registered trademark and property of Pantone, Inc