What’s the Difference Between RGB, CMYK and PMS Colors?

When you’re decorating apparel for a brand, it’s important to keep the colors you’re printing consistent and correct. Sometimes you’re given artwork sent to you from an image from a website, or from a brochure file that was created for the company.

You might even experience working with one the company’s many designers or printers to come up with a t-shirt design. These designers work hard to keep their branding and colors consistent across their different marketing efforts like brochures, catalogs, website, mobile apps, TV ads etc.

You will hear the terms RGB, HEX, CMYK and Pantone (PMS) thrown around quite often as a garment decorator.

When it comes to printing t-shirts, having the knowledge of which type of color range is right for the graphics you’re heat printing with will make your life much less stressful.

The easiest way to break it down is into 2 categories of color ranges, Print and On-Screen.

Without getting into color theory and an in-depth conversation on how each of these color ranges are comprised, let’s explain what we’re here to know, which type of colors are best for screen printed and digital heat transfers?

CMYK and PMS are for Print. RGB and HEX are for On-screen.

CMYK refers to the colors Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (Key). These colors are the primary colors for print and are printed separately and blended together by a digital printer to create your image.

CMYK is best for digitally printed heat transfers.

These transfers are printed using a printer similar to a home ink-jet printer. When supplying your artwork, it’s best to be created using the CMYK color model.

PMS stands for Pantone® Matching System. Where there is much color variation from different printers using the CMYK color model, Pantone created a standardized system of color which us screen printers love! It makes communicating the exact color needed by referencing a PMS number and it doesn’t change from printer to printer.

Pantone Colors are the preferred color model for screen printers.

Since we are talking about printed transfers, we will spare you the discussion about RGB and HEX. Just know, these color modes are best on the computer screen, not for printing.

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