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Colour Systems and why they are important in signage and branding

RGB colours, HEX colours, CMYK colours, and Pantone colours are different colour systems used in various applications, including signage. Each system has its own purpose and advantages, and understanding their differences is important for ensuring colour accuracy and consistency in signage production.


RGB Colours


RGB Colours:

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue. It is an additive colour model used primarily for digital displays such as computer screens, televisions, and projectors. In this model, colours are created by combining different intensities of red, green, and blue light. Each colour channel has values ranging from 0 to 255, with 0 being the absence of the colour and 255 being the highest intensity.


Advantages: RGB colours are ideal for digital design and web-based projects since they closely match the capabilities of electronic displays.


Disadvantages: RGB can look great on a computer monitor where you are designing your project, but may not generate accurate printed colours as your printer will use the CMYK system instead.


HEX Colours:

HEX colours are an extension of the RGB colour model but represented in hexadecimal notation. It is commonly used in web design and digital graphics. In this format, each color channel is represented by a two-digit hexadecimal number, ranging from 00 to FF. For example, #FF0000 represents pure red, while #00FF00 represents pure green.


Advantages: HEX colours are easy to use in HTML and CSS code, making them a popular choice for web designers and developers.


Disadvantages: HEX colours do not translate to printers and other processes so a CMYK or Pantone equivalent is needed to create signage that matches your colour.


CMYK colours

CMYK Colours:

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black). It is a subtractive colour model used in the printing industry. CMYK colours are created by applying layers of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks to a white paper surface. The combination of these four colours produces a wide range of hues.


Advantages: CMYK is suitable for printed materials because it accurately represents the colour output achievable with printing processes, ensuring better colour reproduction in printed signage.


Disadvantages: Printers and printing equiment all vary slightly in their output so using CMYK across the board may result in printed brochures not matching printed signage not matching printed business cards, even though the same CMYK values have been given to each different machine.



Pantone system


Pantone Colours:

Pantone is a proprietary colour matching system used widely in graphic design, branding, and printing industries. It includes a set of standardized colours, each identified by a unique code. Pantone colours are created using a specific mix of base inks. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) provides a precise and consistent way to communicate colours between designers, manufacturers, and printers.


Advantages: Pantone colours provide a reliable method for achieving consistent colour results across different materials and production methods, making them crucial for maintaining brand identity in signage and other printed materials. Professional logo design and branding packages should include Pantone reference colours so sign manufacturers can compare their materials to a universal colour system and adjust their equipment or processes to get an appropriate colour match.


Pantone fan deck


Importance in Relation to Signage:

When designing signage, colour accuracy and consistency are critical for brand recognition and visual appeal. Different colour systems have various purposes and applications, so choosing the appropriate colour system depends on the intended use of the signage.


- For digital signage or projects displayed on electronic screens, using RGB or HEX colours is more appropriate.

- For print signage, using CMYK or Pantone colours is essential to ensure that the colours seen on the design software closely match the final printed output. Pantone is preferred in many cases as equipment can be tuned to match Pantone colours.

- For custom signage, Pantone colours are needed because many different elements such as print, painting, or factory coloured materials are used and a universal system is necessary to match different products and processes to the same colour.


Using the wrong colour system or neglecting to convert colours properly can result in variations in colour appearance, which can be highly detrimental to the intended message, brand image, and overall aesthetics of the signage. To avoid such issues, designers and sign makers must pay close attention to the colour systems used and ensure proper conversion between them when necessary.

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