What are the differences between RGB, CMYK and PMS color models?

How do you take all of the colours you see onto a screen, paper, or clothing? The truth is that you cannot perfectly replicate the natural spectrum of light and colour, nor can you replicate what the eye and brain do in microseconds.

But you have these colour models or matching systems that assist you in connecting with what your eyes see to the colours you want to present in your materials.

Knowing the differences between these models: RGB (Red, Green and Blue), CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key) and PMS (Pantone Matching System) is essential for selecting colors that will have the desired effect on your audience.

Read the blog so that you get an overview of the key differences between RGB, CMYK, and Pantone (PMS).

Table of Content:

  1. The RGB Color Model
  2. The CMYK Color Model
  3. The PMS Color Model

Before getting started, just click on this blog to know what is the Pantone color of the year.

The RGB Color Model

In digital marketing, the RGB color model is one of the most important and well-known systems for evaluating and describing colour.

This is a commonly used method that is based on the three primary colors from which all other colors are formed: Red, Green, and Blue. These primary colors are used to create a majority of digital images, including those on your computer, smart devices, and digital camera.

The RGB color model is a simple additive color model. This means that colors are combined to make lighter colors. When red, green, and blue are mixed in equal parts, the result is absolute white. Combining different combinations (such as just two colors in varying amounts) will produce different colors and shades.

For example, combinations of Red and Green produce yellow, while Red and Blue produce Magenta. Meanwhile, Yellow, Green, and Blue combine to form Cyan. In essence, RGB colors can be used to generate CMYK colors for printing.

The CMYK Color Model

CMYK is an abbreviation for the four ink colors used in printing: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (better known as Black). As previously stated, these colors are formed by combining various RGB hues. Because the CMY plates in four-color printing are ‘keyed’ (aligned) with the black plate’s key, the term ‘key’ was originally used instead of black.

One of the most significant distinctions between CMYK and RGB is that CMYK colors are subtractive. In order to achieve lighter colors, ink must be removed. For example, Red can be subtracted from white light to yield Cyan.

Additive and subtractive methods are extremely difficult to distinguish, particularly when transforming CMYK to RGB or likewise. One way to think about these two methods is that black in RGB represents a lack of light, whereas CMYK symbolises a full color spectrum. White in CMYK implies the absence of colors, as it is the primary color of the paper or another type of background.

Another significant distinction between RGB and CMYK is that RGB is chiefly used for digital purposes, whereas CMYK is used for printing.

CMYK ink colors are used by the majority of home printers, high-end color laser printers, and industrial offset presses. While printing different colors, the printer uses blends of all four colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black).

The PMS Color Model

When people talk regarding Pantone colors, they usually mean the colors stipulated in the Pantone Matching System (PMS). This is a proprietary, standardised color system used in many manufacturing industries that describes colors by an assigned number. For example, PMS 191 is a specific shade of pink. Pantone numbers can be preceded by letters like M, C, or U. These are abbreviations for matte, coated, or uncoated.

The Pantone system is the industry standard for communicating color from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer. Pantone is named after the company that invented the system, Pantone Inc. Printers, manufacturers, marketers, artists, designers, and others now widely accept and rely on the Pantone system.

If a factory has the correct Pantone number for the color of your product, they can be confident that the color will match your specifications.

Pantone (PMS) colors can benefit from CMYK. CMYK is actually used to reproduce a subset of Pantone colors. Specific guidelines specify which colors can be recreated using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks. However, the majority of Pantone’s colors are not created using CMYK, but rather with thirteen base pigments (as well as black). These are carefully mixed to produce a range of distinct colors.

The primary benefit of Pantone is that it makes it simple to avoid color discrepancies in both print and digital media. Pantone color identification has been found effective across a surprising variety of industries, including fashion, beauty, and real estate, among many others.


CMYK creates a wide range of colors by combining Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow and Key. To produce different colors, you can modify the levels of each color in CMYK by percentages.

RGB, which stands for Red, Green, and Blue, is the opposite of CMYK.

Pantone, also known as Pantone Matching System or PMS, is a company that developed a proprietary color space that is primarily used in printing. Pantone is the industry standard when it comes to color matching and standardisation.

It is critical to understand the distinctions between these color modes of RGB, CMYK and PMS and when to use them.