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What is CMYK, PMS, RGB, or HEX colour?

They are all COLOUR CODES.

There you go, all settled we can stop thinking about it now right?

OK then, not settled I'll explain in simple terms. These codes all reflect different aspects of online or offline colour media and their models.

Huh? continue reading for the full explanation...


Used for high resolution printing processes. CMYK refers to Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K). CMYK has millions of colour models for full combination inks as well as tones hence it's high resolution applications. It is also commonly referred to as Four Colour or Full Colour as every colour can virtually be created from this mix.

PMS (no not a female stress issue)

Other printer colour models are PMS – Pantone Matching System or commonly known in the industry as SPOT COLOURS. These are additional colours hence, if you are using a SPOT COLOUR for example a metallic gold, this would be additional to the four colour mix CMYK.

From here I could go into halftones and screen angles, but I did say I'd keep it simple and all you need to know is that we know about this!

CMYK converts to RGB

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue and when they are overlapped or added with light they produce a broad array of colours (an entire spectrum).

RGB is used mostly for images in electronics – think TVs or computers. It uses the phosphors built in the the screen and this is dependent on the technology i.e.. LCD, plasma, video projector, mobile display, scanner, camera.

RGB is made up of up to 256 colours.

Within this their are colour palette options built for memory… 8, 16, 24 and 32 bit, mmm should I go here?

Basically this takes into consideration the microprocessor of your PC – in laymen's terms, the more recent your PC, the more it registers (processes) the colour and the better representation.

I could go further but hey, I said I'd keep this simple and so I am - NEXT !

So what's a HEX code?

A HEX code is a six digit (hexadecimal) representation of an RGB colour.

What the... I hear you say?

HEX is also used for the internet, web applications so unless your ordinarily involved with building web or smart technology applications you'll possibly never have to know or understand a HEX code.

Why have them then?

They serve a purpose to us involved. Working on the web the 'smaller' you can reduce images or colours the faster the website or application will perform, so rather than a 256 RGB image being loaded to a screen and HEX colour is produced in 16 colours (or one sixteenth of 256 colours), so the image loads very quickly.

There's more technical jargon on the conversion here if your up for it!


Unless you really know what your doing when creating a print document vs an online document I would invest in a professional for artwork such as Just Say Ah.

Aside from the colour models there are also resolution issues that can occur and that's another kettle of fish which we'll list in another blog.

So you see colours and resolution DO make a difference and CAN effect the outcome, so make sure the person you are dealing with has the training, experience and qualifications to make your project a success.

The information and other content published above is provided for information only and is not intended to amount to advice on which reliance should be placed. No responsibility for its accuracy and correctness is assumed by Just Say Ah (JSA), and JSA disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on such commentary or content by any visitor to the site, or by anyone who may be informed of any of its content.


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