We will assume for the sake of this question that you know next to nothing about printing, sign making or colour references.
So grab that coffee, sit back and relax.
Everything you never wanted to know about colour, but suddenly find yourself needing to know is below!
If you’ rather skip through the technical and get down to the “what do I need to send you?”, then the answer is Pantone references are great and will get you the closest match, CMYK references are a close 2nd but are less accurate due to reasons explained below.
What makes or changes a colour?
1. Colour References.
There are many different ways of specifiying a particular colour. There are CMYK and RAL and Pantone and RGB colour references for instance.
Each of these types of colour reference are predominantly used by a particular industry. Some of which are useful for sign making, some of which are not.
2. Material Types.
The substrate you’re printing onto will have an effect on the final colour you see. For example, printing onto a smooth sheet of plastic will give a more solid colour than printing that same colour onto a cotton sheet.
3. Sources of Light.
When colour matching, you should view the colours in natural light. All of our eco friendly lighting at Signet Signs Ltd produces ‘natural light’ to enable us to colour match indoors in perfect conditions.
The reason you colour match outdoors is to get away from the internal lighting altering your perception of colour. For example, fluorescent tubes emit a large amount of yellow which dramatically alters colours.
Likewise, a colour viewed on your phone will look much brighter as it’s backlit than viewing it on a flat sheet of paper.
The Different Colour Reference Types (Colour Models)
Pantones – A widely accept colour range used in a variety of industries.
Pantone LLC is a company which is best known for its Pantone Matching System (PMS). Their colour references are used extensively in print, graphic design, fashion and product design.
For a ‘not small’ amount of money you can purchase a pantone reference swatch. This allows you to see each colour. So when someone says I want that sign to be pantone 269. We can look at our colour reference swatch , find pantone 269 and ensure the print matches that colour. Anyone, anywhere in the world, with a pantone reference swatch will be able to work towards that exact sample colour and this is why pantones are so very useful in our industry. We know the exact colour as we have a swatch showing them all. All we need to know is the Pantone reference number you need us to match.
CMYK – Used in printing. (Example: 10/99/20/21).
Also know as four colour process printing, is a subtractive model and is used to specify ink volumes. The C M Y and K refer to the Cyan , Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) inks. The larger the number the more ink is used.
So a reference of 5/5/5/5 will be a very light grey, whereas a reference of 100/100/100/100 will be darkest black.
These references are very applicable to sign making but one thing should be borne in mind, and that is… every single manufacturers inks will be slightly different. Likewise, every single printer will print slightly differently too.
So if you printed a sheet of paper with 5/5/5/5 on one machine using Example Inks Ltd, it is unlikely to be an exact colour match printed on another different machine using Dummy Inks Ltd.
Unfortunately this is just the way things are but CMYK colour references will get a close match, albeit it may not be an exact match to your existing printed items due to the above.
RAL – Used for powder coating & varnishing.
RAL is a colour model used throughout Europe mainly in the powder coating & varnishing industries. RAL is a useful reference in the signage industry as we have RAL colour reference charts.
We then match a Pantone to the RAL reference and print the pantone colour.
RGB – Used on digital display screens.
The RGB colour model is an additive colour model in which red, green and blue light are added together to create a vast array of colours.
The main use for the RGB colour model is for use in digital display screens, like televisions, mobile phone screens and the like. As with CMYK, there are a number of influences which can alter the way that colour is perceived by the viewer.
For example, take your computer monitor screen and lets assume it showing a bright red square. Now adjust your monitors brightness, contrast, vibrancy, saturation and so on… each time you adjust the settings for your monitor you’ll be subtly changing the colour on your screen.
This is why it’s not a good idea to rely on digital photographs for colour matching. There are far too many outside influences which can impact on the colour.
Therefore it is not a reference which typically applies to the print industry and it’s a reason no one should use a digital image / screen for referencing a colour.
Hex – (Web Colours) – Used on websites.
As per RGB, hex references are not relevant to the print industry.
We hope this proved useful, but if you’ve skipped to the bottom in the hope of finding a quick summary then…
Please send us Pantones, CMYK or RAL references. They’re the most useful to us, in that order.
Any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact us.