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Colour Models & Systems

RGB, CMYK, PMS, – what the Hex does it all mean?

What do I really need to know? (And why so many acronyms?!) Colour models and systems can be confusing when it comes to finding what best suits your project, so we’ve created a simple guide to help you to bring the right kind of colour into your life.

The first step when approaching colour models and systems is to distinguish what application the project is for. Will it be printed or will it be used digitally? The most common colour models you’ll encounter are RGB, Hex, CMYK and PMS. We’ve categorised them into Digital and Print below to give you an idea of how and when you can use them.



RGB (Red, Green, Blue)

  • Best suited for digital use on screens/online e.g. website, online ads, social media posts and video


CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (Black))

  • Your go-to for print projects such as business cards, merchandise, packaging and stationery
  • Ideal for small print runs or,
  • Large print runs that require more than four colours and/or include pictures

Hex Colour Codes (hexadecimal)

  • Primarily used by designers and developers for HTML and web design
  • Six-digit combination of letters and numbers based on their mix of RGB

PMS (Pantone Matching Systems)

  • Primarily used for offset printing
  • A universal language of colour that helps to more accurately identify and match colours
  • Most reliable colour matching system
  • If a designer uses a colour swatch produced by Pantone to choose a colour, the printer can then refer to the same swatch to print with accuracy
  • Ideal for large print runs with one to two colours
  • Prints most vibrant colours

Checking your projects are printed or displayed with the most suitable colour system ensures the final product matches the colours you’ve envisioned. Now that you’ve got your head around colour models, let’s talk paper stocks…stay tuned for more.

Happy colouring!

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