Color Models & Matching

Color Matching

Color matching is the process of transferring a specific color from one technology to another. This can become difficult when two different technologies utilize different color modeling tools. For example, many digital displays use an RGB color system to create a particular color whereas many printers use CMYK to print colors.

In order to overcome gaps in technology using different color modeling tools, technicians can use standardized color spaces or spot color matching to match colors.



The RGB color model is a color model mainly used in display technologies that use light, so things like computer monitors, tv screens, video games, and digital cameras. The colors red, green, and blue are combined together at different intensities to create millions of colors across the video display screen. RGB color model is additive which means as colors continue to be added the result becomes lighter. The full combination of red, green, and blue produces white.


The CMYK color model is a color model used in printing. Also known as a 4-color printing process, the CMYK color model uses different combinations of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to produce any color for print. Unlike RGB, which is additive, CMYK is subtractive. This means the CMYK color model combines color in order to cover up a white background which the opposite of what the RGB model does.


PMS is a color model that stands for Pantone matching system. The model is based on over one thousand standardized ink colors. Unlike the RGB and CMYK color models, which require mixing different colors to achieve a desired result, the PMS color model uses inks that have already been created before the printing process begins.

Pantone printing is often used for spot coloring. This is when a specific color is needed in a printing process that the typical CMYK process cannot produce. This is because sometimes with certain combinations of colors, the CMYK process can only assign so much ink to create the colors. For example, if a particular print needs three colors that all require a mixture of cyan, the CMYK process might not be able to assign each the color the appropriate amount needed. This is where Pantone coloring comes to print the spot color that is needed.

PMS printing is also great for printing deep and brilliant monochromatic colors and is particularly a strong choice for color matching specific colors such as a color from a logo. Its limitations arise when printing designs that require four or more colors or printing photographs.

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