Colors are not just represented in shades and hues, they’re also represented through color values such as RGB, Hex, and CMYK. These acronyms may not make sense to a non-designer, but they are actually an integral part of our lives ever single day.
Color surrounds us each and every day. We see so many different shades, hues, and tints of colors that we may not even realize how they affect our brains. There is a vast rainbow of colors in the world, some of which are so recognizable, they instantly make us think of a particular brand or company.
Color Representation in Famous Brands
Take, for example, the following brands. Look at the name of each one carefully and imagine the brand as a color. What color do you see?
Did you see blue for Pepsi? Red for target? Red or yellow for McDonalds? Or blue or yellow for Ikea? These examples are just a few of the thousands of brands that we can associate with a particular color. Color is important when it comes to branding because it makes a brand easily distinguishable and identifiable, but did you know that color serves an even greater purpose?
The Psychological and Emotional Effects of Colors
Human emotions and feelings are also strongly tied to color. In the following example, imagine the emotion as a color. What color do you see?
Joy is most often associated with warm colors such as yellow or orange. Anger is most often expressed in the color red. Depression is commonly linked to the color blue and the common phrase “having the blues” is a consummate representation of that. Love can be represented by red or pink.
Emotions are so strongly tied to color that many world-famous brands have begun implementing marketing strategies based solely around color. Have you ever noticed that many food chains use red in their logos and marketing? That’s because red makes us feel hungry.
Because of the impact that color has on human emotion and psychology, brands have to be very specific in the shade that they use. Their colors must remain consistent across all platforms whether digital or print. It can be difficult to keep accurate colors across several designers and media types. What you see on a computer screen is not always the same as what you will see in a printed document. This is where color modes come in to play, they help maintain color consistency across print and digital media.
What is a Color Mode or Color Profile?
How do brands like Samsung or Windows keep their particular shades of colors consistent across different platforms? The answer is through color profiles.
The three-color modes, RGB, CMYK, and HEX are all used to represent colors. Each one is a different profile. It will be used for different types of media and colors will be represented in a unique way.
The two types of media that color modes can be used on are: print and digital. Both forms of media, render color in a different way: print media is subtractive while digital media or onscreen media is additive.
What does RGB, HEX, and CMYK stand for?
These three acronyms are the most common color types. Knowing what each acronym stands for will make it easier to distinguish the differences between them.
- RGB – Red, Green, Blue
- HEX – Hexadecimal
- CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black
What is the Difference Between RGB, HEX, and CMYK?
Now that you know what a color profile is and what each acronym stands for, let’s discuss how each one is used and some of the differences between them.
RGB (Red, Green, Blue)
Use: Digital Media Onscreen
RGB is the most commonly used color profile on computers, movie screens, and television sets. RGB uses a combination of red, green, and blue to render unique colors.
The amount of red, green, and blue in each unique color is represented by a value from 0 to 255. The higher the number next to red, green, or blue, the more of that color is represented in the rendered color. Because RGB is an additive process, combining all three colors fully (R 255, G 255, B 255) will result in white. While removing all three completely (R 0, G 0, B 0) will create black.
Since RGB is only used in digital onscreen media, the colors are illuminated making them appear brighter from they would if they were printed. Designers who create something meant to be printed in an RGB color profile may be disappointed when printing time comes. That is where CMYK comes in to save the day.
HEX (Hexadecimal Color)
Use: Digital Onscreen Media, Primarily Web Based
Colors on the web are most often represented by HEX color codes. A HEX code is a six-digit combination of letters and numbers that represents an RGB color. HEX colors are usually easier to remember than RGB values. They also make it easier for web designers to keep colors consistent across a website.
CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black)
Use: Print Media
CMYK is the go-to color profile for print media. It is useful for printing flyers, business cards, posters, and brochures. Anything glossy, will look great in CMYK.
CMYK is a four-color color profile represented by cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Like RGB, each color is combined to render a unique color. With CMYK, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black will be represented by a number between 0 and 100 that indicates how much of that color is present.
Printing is different than digital media making the CMYK color profile a subtractive color model. The four colors of ink used in CMYK absorb color light, resulting in the colors that we see on print media.
Converting Between Color Profiles
RGB to CMYK
What if a product is created in RGB, but needs to be printed? Thanks to modern technology, there are a lot of options for changing designs between different color profiles. Popular graphic design software such as Photoshop, allow you to easily switch a document between color modes.
When a design goes to the print shop, it may be changed anyway. Every printer is unique and print shops will often convert RGB files from clients to CMYK. It is best to have the conversion done by the print service provider. Because each device works with a specific color gamut, some changes may be made. If you want to avoid any surprises in your finished product, it is best to order samples or proofs before printing the entire order.
RGB to HEX
While there is some conversion between HEX color codes and RGB values, the web is full of free tools to help you find the correct HEX color code for the chosen color. Additionally, most graphic design programs like Photoshop will display the HEX color code alongside the RGB value so you can easily find the code for the color you need.
Tips for Keeping Colors Consistent
Keeping colors consistent is no easy task. It takes dedication, patience, and a keen eye in order to create a cohesive and consistent brand. Remember, we all see colors a little differently and technology is ever-changing. Every computer monitor, phone screen, and printer is different. This can create a huge hurdle to overcome when it comes to consistency. Hopefully, these tips will help you develop clear color guidelines for your brand.
Start with CMYK
If you truly want to achieve color consistency across multiple devices and platforms, its best to start with a CMYK color profile. It is much easier to find a matching RGB color for a CMYK one than it is to find a CMYK color for an RGB color.
Keep Colors to a Minimum
Less is more when it comes to consistency. If you only have to keep track of one or two colors, those colors will be less likely to deviate. You will also develop an eye for those colors so you’ll be more likely to notice if something is off.
Create and Establish Clear Guidelines
A brand style guide must be established. This is the source of your design assets, color codes, fonts, and other branding material. This can be done in a PDF, folder, or a web page. Begin with the design assets such as logos, icons, and imagery. Next add the brand colors including the RGB values, CMYK values, and HEX codes. Creating font guidelines will also help keep your team on brand. Lastly, add guidelines that need to be followed such as how to use logos, the voice material should be written in, or templates that should be used.
The style guide is key for consistency when working with multiple people so make sure it accessible to every employee and designer.
Perform Quality Assurance
Never assume that brand guidelines are always being followed. If you work with multiple designers or vendors, it is imperative that you perform quality assurance. Nothing should be printed or posted before it is reviewed to ensure it meets brand and color guidelines.