When picking out colors and creating design for any package, it's important to have a working understanding of different types of ink. These are the three you should know:

Use a Pantone Color finder to identify the numbered code for the color you want. This ensures an accurate color match every time and eliminates discrepancies between your digital design and the final, printed product.


RGB is an acronym for red, green and blue. Computer monitors, televisions, scanners, digital camera and mobile devices use RGB to display color.

This is used only for digital designs. Any image created with an RBG color profile must be converted to CMYK or PMS colors before printing.

One of the most common printing mistakes is submitting RGB files for print or converting their files to CMYK after they are created in RGB.  Most of the time the color change is slight, however, the color could range after conversion resulting in a completely different tone.


CMYK is an acronym for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black). Commercial printing presses print with CMYK, which is often referred to as four color process because it uses four colored inks to create the different colors.

It has the widest range of colors, so it's used primarily for full color printing. Provides the greatest amount of accuracy. Should be your choice for any design that utilizes four or more colors.

When you create art in Word, Photoshop or Publisher, the automatic color default is RGB. This software was created for home office publishing and not for commercial print. When creating art for commercial print you should use CMYK from the beginning.


PMS is an acronym for Pantone Matching System, which is a universal color matching system used in printing. Unlike RGB and CMYK, PMS colors are created with pre-mixed ink long before the image is actually produced, resulting in most consistent color possible.

Some tones may not accurately reproduce in four-color process, such as:

  • Metallic colors
  • Fluorescent colors
  • Navy blue
  • Orange
  • Gray

In these cases, use PMS spot printing to color correct the limitations of CMYK printing. PMS is also used to ensure accurate brand coloring in design elements. Logos and black-and-white/monochromatic designs look their best in PMS, as the ink produces much richer variations in tones.

However, since PMS ink is pre-mixed, it must be applied one color at a time. If you want to create a print design using only PMS colors, it is recommended to only use one to three colors at a time. Otherwise, you will greatly increase both the cost of your print media and the likelihood that the ink will crack.