CMYK RGB Pantone Stickers

CMYK vs RGB vs PMS - How they differ?

Posted by OZStickerPrinting on January 18, 2019

As a design and sticker printing company, often, designers request clients for logos, images or other artworks to be used in their custom stickers or product labels. Clients, especially those that don’t have design technical know-how, normally don’t know nor understand the application process, but the very reason a designer asks about the correct type of file, including colour type, is dependent on the application. Below are basic explanations of the different colour systems.

Note that RGB must be used when designing for things on a screen, such as a website, TV commercial, or PowerPoint. However, when designing something to be printed, using CMYK and PMS colours is advised.


This is often referred to as a four-colour process. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black) make up the colour palette for CYMK. Our printers at home use this colour profile. Since CMYK is used while working with ink, the goal here is not to emit the light that is to be seen, but rather use ink that will absorb light reflected from a white piece of paper. Cyan, magenta, and yellow ink are added to absorb light and subtract the type of light waves being reflected back to your eye. When all three colours are combined, all light is absorbed and will appear black. Does that give you a hint as to why black is referred to as “key”? Primarily, black is the colour used on the key plate, thus supplying the contrast and detail in the final image.

Black is used so much here, although CMY together creates black, a separate black ink is included to provide more density, and save ink too. CMYK colours are usually less vibrant than RBG colours because rather than using light, you’re using ink to create colours.

CMYK Setup for Stickers

If the files you submitted to us are not set to CYMK, we will promptly ask you to convert your sticker art to the proper colour mode because the file is not print ready. Take note that conversion from one colour standard to another results in another colour shift.

RGB (Red, Green, Blue)

RGB is an additive colour space that is used for screens because screens emit light, which means that you have to start with a black screen and add variations of red, green and blue light to create colours; when all are combined, the result is white. As mentioned, RGB colour space is more vibrant than CMYK because RGB works with light while CMYK works with ink. Essentially, the way RGB works is that light filters through these colours to make different hues or tones. 100% light density creates white. On the contrary, 0% density creates black (which is the colour of your screen). Using a light density from 1 – 99% with different variations of these three colours will create any of the other colours you see on your screen. There is typically some variation in RGB colours from screen to screen as monitors are each calibrated a bit differently.


PMS stands for Pantone Matching System. PMS is a universal colour-matching system used primarily for printing. Pantone colours are a result of special mixtures of ink. Each colour is represented by a numbered code. Unlike CMYK, PMS colours are pre-mixed with a specific ink formula prior to printing. Similar to picking out your favourite paint at the hardware store before painting. Having these specific formulas creates the most consistent colour possible across different applications or print locations. If you are printing anything with a very specific colour palette, this is the best colour profile to use.

Because printers tend to have shifted in colour due to slight differences in calibration, businesses often use Pantone colours for things that absolutely have to be the exact colour intended. Usually, Pantone colours are used in logos and company materials that are to match one another. There are 4-colour builds for PMS colours, but since PMS colours are mixed with a specific recipe of pigments, attempting to recreate PMS colours with CMYK typically results in a shift in colour.

Because cyan, magenta and yellow are combined to create a variety of colours, the inks are transparent. Since PMS colours are intended to stand alone, the inks are opaque. This creates problems when designers attempt to use transparencies with PMS colours. If you want to use transparency effects with a PMS colour, you must use the CMYK equivalent of the colour rather than the actual PMS colour.


Do we accept artwork in Pantone Colours?

Yes, we convert Pantone colours to their CMYK equivalent values before printing. We encourage you to specify your own CMYK values and include them in your artwork instructions when ordering. Moreover, we normally recommend using Pantone colours for clients who are very specific about the colours of their printed stickers to avoid issues in the future.

Hopefully, this helps you understand the differences between these colour systems.