Pantone color codes are typically used for offset printing, screen printing, letterpress, or other methods that require specific and accurate color reproduction. Pantone codes can also be given to a printer for matching purposes when printing digitally.
Always refer to an official Pantone swatch book for accurate color representation. Pantone codes allow for exact color reproduction, whereas CMYK and RGB may show variances across different printers and different screens.
CMYK is used when doing a 4-color print (i.e., a brochure that includes photography), or for digital printers (quick turn-around, low-volume printers).
Use RGB files for digital applications, such as a website or email newsletter. Make sure to use RGB versions of these files. A CMYK JPG may not display colors properly on screen.
Vector files (usually EPS or AI formats) are resolution-independent, and used for print applications. If a designer or printer requests a logo file for a print piece, usually they want the vector file. It allows unlimited scalability and adjustment of layout and color if necessary.
On the other hand, raster files (like JPG, GIF, PNG, etc.) cannot be scaled without losing resolution quality. Raster files are appropriate for screen/web applications because of their smaller file size.
Common applications and the file types to use:
CMYK: (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) - Referred to as process color or four color, it is versatile and widely used.
RGB: (Red, Green, Blue) - This is the representation of color for display of images in electronic systems such as TVs and computers.
Pantone Matching System (PMS): A proprietary color space used primarily in printing. Pantone color guides allows designers to “color match” specific colors regardless of printing equipment.
EPS: A vector graphics file format that contains a geometric description which can be rendered smoothly at any desired display size. Can be re-edited.
AI: A vector graphics format developed by Adobe Systems. Similar usage to vector EPS files.
JPG: A compressed raster image format primarily used for on-screen display. Cannot scale up arbitrarily without loss of quality or be re-edited.
GIF: A raster image format that is limited to 256 colors. Suitable for storing graphics with few colors, such as simple diagrams and shapes. Cannot scale up arbitrarily without loss of quality or be re-edited.
PNG: Created as a successor to GIF. Supports 16 million colors, and excels for images with large, uniformly colored areas. PNG allows for the display of transparent backgrounds. It is a raster format that cannot scale up arbitrarily without loss of quality or be re-edited.