When it comes to choosing the colors to print your packaging in, it can get a little confusing. Color consistency is key for brand recognition and identity, but what makes things tricky is that everyone sees color differently. You only need to remember the worldwide debate over if that dress was black and blue or white and gold!

Color spaces are the systems that organize color when designing and printing.  They make sure everyone involved is on the same page by standardizing colors and avoiding printing errors. There are plenty of these systems to choose from, from RGB and HEX codes, to PMS to CYMK.

Clued up designers and printing experts will be familiar with these terms, but for everyday business owners, they can prove to be challenging. Not to worry, though – we've got you covered. Here is our guide to printing packaging with the two color spaces that noissue uses, CMYK and Pantone, and why each one can benefit brands in very different ways.

CMYK Colors

CMYK is one of the most familiar printing models available. It is typically used in home office inkjet printers and its name stands for the four colors it uses: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (The K stands for the “Key” color, which is typically black ink.)

Magic is made by layering together tiny overlapping dots in a combination of these four colors. We are taught at a young age that yellow and blue paint make green, or to mix red and yellow for orange. Printers have the knowledge of exactly what percentage of each color results in the desired shade. CMYK is the go-to choice when producing photorealistic and multi-color imagery in your packaging.

@invitocoffee

Pantone Colors

Pantone is all about precision. The universally used system mixes ink to create a consistent and exact color match, every time.

This system is known as the Pantone Matching System (PMS) and contains over 1000 shades. Just like when choosing paint shades for your kitchen wall, each color links to a specific swatch sample and number. By standardizing colors in this way, manufacturers in different locations can make sure their colors match even if they can’t be compared visually. This results in an exact final match, printer to printer, project to project, with no differentiation from the expected results.

@oanabefort

Pantone is brilliantly suited for producing vibrant tones of color and those extra special tonal finishing touches like metallic or neon colors. And with an exact match each time, it is perfect for those looking for high-quality, colorful, consistent branding.

What’s the difference?

The main difference between Pantone and CMYK printing is the level of accuracy when it comes to the final colors. The Pantone system will deliver the exact color every time no matter who is printing or designing, whereas CMYK can result in slight color variances.

CMYK’s limitations are that it cannot produce colors of the same vibrancy as Pantone and that they can be inconsistent. Colors produced using separate printers can look different, even if printing from the same document. This is usually a 5-10% tonal difference between what is seen on screen and the final printed product.

On the flip side, Pantone might result in the best quality colors, but it is also more expensive than CMYK due to its time-consuming, single-print method. Pantone prints using a “spot color” method which means each individual color is printed one at a time, not mixed together like CMYK.

The more colors you have, the more spots are needed. Ultimately you pay for the number of colors you use, which makes it great for simple branding designs. For printing perfectionists looking for consistent color, Pantone is the one for you. But for print jobs where the quantity and detail of color choices is key, CMYK is the best choice.

Noissue's color printing range

@beckycas_

Noissue uses both Pantone and CMYK in our packaging for different products, which means our customers get the best of both worlds: precision, affordability and a range of colors.

If you are printing the same design across multiple packaging products, it's important to be aware of which products use Pantone and which use CMYK for color consistency.

Here's which products use what.

Pantone: Tissue Paper

@albabbgg

Noissue's tissue paper uses the Pantone Matching System, which means you can select the exact shade you want for your branding.

We work mostly with the Pantone Solid Coated and Uncoated libraries and sparingly with the Pastels and Neon Coated and Uncoated libraries.  

If you haven't used Pantone colors before, this online Pantone color finder tool helps you convert your brand's colors into Pantone colors and see the closest fit.

There's also a custom color picker on our design platform that translates HEX color codes into a perfect Pantone match. If by some tiny chance you have a design that uses a color Pantone can’t match, you’ll get a choice of the closest alternative shades before we press print.

In other words, what you see on screen is what you get.

When it comes to tissue paper, our design platform allows for both one and two color designs. If you would like to use more than two colors in your design, then get in touch with our team – up to six colors can be added at an additional cost.

Because we count white as the base color for our tissue paper, we do not charge for its use. Therefore, you can technically get three-color tissue for the price of two if you use white in your design.

CMYK: Custom Stickers, Tape and Cards

@clubcrafted

When it comes to our custom stickers, tape and cards we use the CMYK printing process. It's the most efficient for color coverage on these products, and it also means you can print as many colors as your heart desires.

One feature to note with CMYK is that colors often come out darker than what you see on screen, so it's worth checking with our design team who can recommend the CMYK values that will get the best result. There is always the chance the colors will be slightly different, but we will do our best to match it.

There's also no limit on the number of colors you can use with packaging products that use CMYK. Of course, you can still request your brand’s Pantone colors, but there will be a chance of a very slight difference.

Pantone and CMYK: Kraft Mailers

@loreillustration

Our Kraft Mailers are a special case as they can be printed in both CMYK and Pantone. For Kraft Mailer designs that are 1 or 2 colors, we can use Pantone and for multiple colored designs, we can use CMYK. However, with CMYK the colors may differ slightly by 5 to 10 percent, so choose wisely.

We hope this has helped to break it down what Pantone printing versus CMYK printing means. Color is a hugely important feature for any packaging, as it helps inject your brand's unique personality while bringing a little joy and color into your customer's world.

Using our online design platform is a quick and easy way to create gorgeous printed packaging in both mediums that is fully customizable in terms of design, size, and, most importantly, captivating color. Happy designing!