Illustrator Pantone, CMYK, RGB, HTML, Spot

Posted on 2008-11-19
Last Modified: 2013-12-02

I've been given colour to work with for print and screen. It's called Pantone Matching System 294. The details are as follows:

C: 100
M: 58
Y: 0
K: 21

R: 0
G: 56
B: 130


I know that CMYK is used for printing, RGB for screen, HTML for web. When I use illustrator and select that RGB colour it comes up with a warning saying it is 'out of gamut'? Why is this?

Also when I use the pantone and convert to spot colour I get

R: 0
G: 85
B: 150

which actually looks more like the pantone colour as opposed to the other RGB value quoted at the start. Can anyone shed some more light on this? thanks
Question by:allanch08
    LVL 32

    Assisted Solution


    It all depends what you are intending to do with your design. In principle you have all you need to design colour consistent across your various  platform if you use the values provided.

    The only thing is that you should not convert from one colour mode to the next...

    The Blue 294 is a mixed ink, Pantone provide a recipe for a mixture of ink parts and assigns a number to it. That way a printer can mix the ink according to the recipe and you can rest assured that this will be consistent on all printed parts (paper types not withstanding).

    Equally you can use 4 colour process print to simulate that colour and within limitations that CMYK equivalent gives you the closest values to approximate to colour of the mixed ink.

    Either of these should be used if you intend to print your artwork using standard offset litho or screen print. Whether CMYK or SPOT (PMS) depends on budget, design and brief of your client or your owbn purpose.

    In the digital world that PMS or CMYK reference has no real meaning, monitors use RGB to display colours browsers interpret hexadecimal values to create the same RGB values, eg the RGB and HTML is effectively the same but expressed differently. The values provided are the approximates to reproduce the set colour on screen.

    So in essence you will need to decide what medium you design a piece of artwork for and use the colour spectrum and document setup accordingly.

    If you convert later on you will get odd result such as if you convert RGB to CMYK.

    Some colours cannot reproduce in printing as CMYK colours and that is when you get you gamut errors, have a look at:

    But if you don't convert and use the true colour space for the appropriate medium you should be fine.


    Author Comment

    thanks for the detailed reply captainreiss.

    I was designing something in RGB for display on tv only when I saw the 'out of gamut' warning msg. So basically it only applies to CMYK and I shouldn't worry about it?
    LVL 32

    Assisted Solution

    Pretty much so.

    If you only design for TV you can start out in RGB and it should not matter. If you plan to ever use it for print, start out as CMYK and convert after saving a safe CMYK copy for later. As said conversion from RGB to CMYK is not recommended.


    Author Comment

    what about creating in spot or cmyk colour, can I start with one and convert to the other as both are used for printing purposes?
    LVL 32

    Accepted Solution

    Yes you can. You need to keep in mind however that if you want to print these commercially that the type of colour used dictates the way it is printed. A SPOT colour is a single plate of that ink mix, CMYK will make up that colour using up to 4 plates. I

    If you design a logo with 10 colours and all are set as spot colours than you have the need for 10 plates which is not printable as most presses are six colours max only. (Typically set to CMYK + 2 specials such as SPOT or varnish)

    If you create the same logo with 10 colours from CMYK you still only make up all these 10 from 4 plates. So a commercial printer has no trouble printing your design.

    SPOT is mainly used for colours that don't reproduce well from CMYK, such as Oranges or bright greens and purples. You would use it typically as a supplement to a CMYK design or if you only use up to 4 spots.

    As far as RGB and later conversion to RGB is concerned, you may want to read up on setting up colour profiles for your design software, if you use Photoshop or Illustrator you can set predefined colour profiles. I personally never bothered with them as I do mainly print work but there is good online help for CS3 available:

    The conversion to RGB is more forgiving mainly as RGB values will appear differently on differently calibrated monitors anyway.

    I would try out what results you get with your default settings and then decide whether you want to keep a file for printing later on or simply design in RGB. If you only intend to digitally print (laser/inkjet etc) then RGB is fine too.


    Author Comment

    thanks captainreiss. its all a lot more complicated then I thought with so many different options and variables that must be considered. lots to learn!

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