CMYK and PMS are processes that determine the appearance of colors on promotional products, brochures and much more.

CMYK stands for the four colors it represents: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Totally Promotional uses the CMYK process to print full-color imprints on our products. Our dye-sublimation printers utilize a specific value of each CMYK colorant to produce the colors our customers choose.

PMS is an acronym for the Pantone Matching System, which uses numbers to accurately produce a very specific color. We use the Pantone method for single-color screen and pad printing on our products. You’ll see the PMS numbers when selecting your imprint colors online.

Let’s take a closer look at these color matching systems:

What is CMYK for printing?

cmyk printing graphic

The CMYK process is widely known for its use in inkjet printers in homes and offices. CMYK combines varying percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow and black to make thousands of secondary colors. This method is called subtractive mixing. Most customers simply choose colors from the wide selection we offer online. But they also have the option of selecting specific values of each of the CMYK colors to print a particular shade on their products.

The CMYK process is often less costly than PMS because it only involves four ink colors. However, CMYK isn’t as accurate as PMS for maintaining consistency in colors on different substrates.

Common items printed with the CMYK process besides promotional products are postcards, flyers and catalogs.

Side note: RGB, an online-only color system that uses red, green and blue, works behind the scenes with CMYK to create imprints on our products. Its three colors are mixed in various intensities to produce the hues you see on computer monitors, TV screens and tablets. RGB digital files are converted to CMYK before printing. RGB cannot be used with PMS.

How does PMS work?

how does pms work

The Pantone printing process uses a precise, predetermined mix of ink to achieve color consistency. Such accuracy in colors is very important when printing company logos or trademark designs that require exactness. To achieve this, printing equipment must be prepped for each individual print job. That is why the PMS process is often more expensive than CMYK.

PMS colors are identified by unique names and/or numbers such as Ultimate Gray (#17-5104) and Illuminating (#13-0647), which were Pantone’s Colors of the Year 2021.

The PMS process creates colors that cannot be accurately replicated with traditional CMYK. At Totally Promotional, our printing experts combine specific CMYK and RGB values to match a designated PMS chart swatch. We encourage customers to submit Pantone numbers to ensure a more exact color match for wedding and corporate items.

Common items printed with the PMS process include promotional products such as can coolers, cups, apparel and tote bags.

Ask the ink and printing experts!

Our highly skilled printing staff know how to make your business logo or wedding quote look its best. We’ve been using state-of-the-art equipment to make imprints on hundreds of different products for more than 30 years. If you have questions about color matching and consistency, just let us know!

We’re here to make products you’ll be proud to use and give to others. Our Products. Your Story™.

bring on the colors with custom can coolers

Shelley Grieshop is a former newspaper journalist who earned more than a dozen Associated Press awards for her in-depth research and writing skills. In May 2016, she joined Totally Promotional as a creative writer. She currently writes company blogs about branding, marketing, logos, wedding planning and much more. One of her life goals is to teach people when to use hyphens and apostrophes.

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