Why can colours be so tricky?

Colour, should be simple right? Pick some nice ones that go together…. but sometimes, it just isn’t.

Your web developer is asking for HEX codes and your designer is talking about Pantones matching up to CMYK, so what does it all mean and what should you be concentrating on?

All these systems can feel a bit like talking in different languages and well simply put that’s because they are:

Screens create colour by mixing Red, Green and Blue (RGB)

Digital printing uses, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black)

So what do you need and when? Well it depends on what is being produced, let’s compare:


Websites and online marketing tools like Canva will need an RGB code because the end result will be seen on a screen, whether that be a computer or a phone.

HEX codes do make this a bit simpler, and a HEX code is a 6 digit code made up of numbers and letters, it might look a bit like this: #A3B2A4.

The first 2 numbers represent the mix of Red, The second 2 Green and the third 2 Blue.


Digital print is much like your printer at home and uses small dots from CMYK which in combination creates the colours required, you will see this being marked up as say:


So what exactly is Pantone, and why is it so important?

Pantone is a granted colour system, a bit like a paint brand when you ask for a tub of ‘sunset yellow’ each tin will match the last because it has been made with a very special blend of pigments.

A Pantone colour will become part of your constant tool kit, a brand asset.  Sometimes it can become so ingrained that they feel like they belong to a brand, do you remember Cadbury’s trying to trademark the Pantone colour 2685?
But using Pantone colours is expensive it requires offset printing (I’ll save that for another blog!) and the competitive cost of the digital printing will mean that many print designers will be choosing Pantone colours that when created digitally from CMYK colours is a pretty close match.

So what should you receive from your designer when you create your brand?
If your working with a graphic designer they will always start with a Pantone colour, but if they are forward thinking they will pick one which when mixed from CMYK it’s a pretty close match.

This is done by using a Pantone bridge fan and this fan will also give us the closest matching HEX code. So you should receive something like this:

Once you have chosen your brand colours, be constant. Our ability to recognise a brand from colour alone is astonishing, and that power is not just reserved for the likes of Cadbury’s or IKEA.

If you would like to find out about creating consistency with your brand colours book a free discovery call with me to see how I can help – Lucie

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