What are these different color values for?

by | Nov 25, 2020 | Color

RGB, CMYK, Hexadecimal…
What does it all mean?!

Are you looking at something like this to the right and wondering what are you supposed to do? What are these different color values for? Just a bunch of numbers and letters.

The good news is if you have these number, the hard work has been done for you. Now you can work to make your documentation and marketing efforts consistent with your organization.

If you don’t have your branding color values, contact me for a simple branding guidelines document for your organization.

So, what are these color values for?

The most common color values you are likely looking at are: Pantone (PMS), CMYK, RGB and Hexadecimal (or a combination of some ).  These color values have different purposes. Simply put… some are used for print and some for digital (website & social media), still others overlap.

When designing a project, a graphic designer will begin a project based first on the products primary use and then export the designs as needed in the correct color values.


CMYK stands for the ink values of four base colors of ink: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

CMYK are the colors used in printing.  They are based on ink values and are most useful in professional printed projects. The value is always represented in a four digit number, though some of those values may be zeros.  For example: C86-M40-Y0-K0 creates the liseydreams.com primary blue.


RGB stands for the Red Green Blue light values.

RGB is a color process typically used in digital projects, however it is also the number value Microsoft products use for determining specific colors.  You can specific specific colors in your documents to match your organizations brand.  This is one of those overlaps.  These numbers are based on light values and will be most useful in a variety of situations. The value is always represented in a three digit number, though some of those values may be zeros.  For example: R0-G118-B189 creates the liseydreams.com primary blue.


Hexadecimal or Hex is essentially the RGB value in a different format.

Technically, a hex triplet is a six-digit, three-byte hexadecimal number used in many digital properties. The bytes represent the red, green and blue components of the color. One byte represents a number in the range 00 to FF (in hexadecimal notation), or 0 to 255 in decimal notation.
Hexadecimal is commonly used in web and social media efforts.  If you see a space with a # or asking for a 6 digit number/letter format in the color value space, this is the 6 digit value the program is looking for. For example, #0776bd is the hexadecimal value for my primary blue.

You may also see these values requested in other online programs such as the Wix website builder and Google applications like Google Docs and Google sheets.


PMS is the Pantone color system.

Pantone provides a universal language for color identification.  Not just printing, but plastics, fabrics and more. The company sells swatch books that printers and graphic designers rely on to ensure the correct color shades of your branding colors are exactly what you had in mind in the end product.

But wait this is also Blue?

Yes. Exactly. There are so many blues: light, dark, bright, grayish, more red, more green. And, there are numerous values of those colors.

Color Pitfalls.

While all 4 of these color values can be used to provide the best possible representation of your branded colors. There are a couple of concerns to be aware of.

  • Not all color values will look exactly the same across platforms. Some colors show very differently in digital versus print.  Be aware and watch for the differences, make adjustments as needed, but document those adjustments, so you can use those consistently.
  • Your desktop inkjet printer or in-house copier may not be as well calibrated as that of your local printer’s equipment.

So keep those colors close by, use them in all projects that represent your organization and keep your branding consistent on the brochure, the annual report, pie charts and even those giveaway pens!

Have Questions? Email me now at elise@liseydreams.com.