CT&D #31. Pantone vs. CMYK Color Usage

When is Pantone color used over CMYK color?

Ideally, the proper scenario to use CMYK color is for printing photos and certain graphics. The reason? Since CMYK ink is simulated (and not mixed) this means that as an image is printed, thousands of dots of some or all of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black color will compose a photo or graphic as they are absorbed by paper to create the image as a whole. Pantone colors, on the other hand, should be reserved for designing logos and banners (usually made in Illustrator or InDesign). These types of graphics are vector based where CMYK color wouldn’t exactly work to necessarily produce the right color properties needed for a quality print.

The reason for this is solely because Pantone colors are mixed unlike CMYK colors, and offer palette swatches to a user in which a color can be selected to produce blended and consistent color tones (from true blue for example to its numerous shades such as cobalt blue and teal). Applications that require Pantone colors need it for its smooth vector quality with a demonstration of solid or mixed colors and gradients where applicable. Although CMYK colors are less expensive than Pantone colors, Pantone colors offer more variety as aforementioned in color swatches (with color codes being a useful scheme to look up shades) which adds value to whenever a need in professional graphic design applications and even in interior design calls for the mixing and matching of colors between a project and complimentary medium.

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