The Competitive Edge: Your go-to guide on Colour and Printing Colours | Article – HSBC VisionGo

a deeper understanding of colour when designing products will help make your designing process easier.

Design  ·    ·  4 mins read

PC, Pexels: Ann H

When it comes to designing packaging, one of the most important aspects is colour.

Ensuring that your finished product’s colours represent your product and brand values are paramount when creating a credible business. This is why a deeper understanding of colour when designing products will help make your designing process easier.

RGB: Red, Green, Blue

  • Use: Onscreen
  • Ideal for: Digital applications, games and illuminated signs, visualization purposes, displaying images on monitor of computers, TV screens and mobile device
  • What is it: Additive colour synthesis (adding lights creates white and removing all creates black)
  • Disadvantages: Images appear dull and less saturated when converted to CMYK (there will be a colour difference in the finished product — it is advised to let print service provider do the conversion because every device has specific colour gamut it works with)

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue which are the base colours used for creating other colours. RGB colour mode creates other colours by combining these colours and weighting them according to the colour you’d like.

PC: Neglia Design

CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black)

  • Use: Printing (offset and digital)
  • Ideal for: Full-color photographic images, brochures, books, magazines, flyers, posters, postcards, etc
  • What is it: Subtractive colour synthesis (adding layers increases absorption)
  • Disadvantages: Can only print 70% of RGB colours, cannot produce vibrant, shiny colours seen on a screen like bright red/blue/green
  • Difference to Pantone: Not solid colour/collection of coloured dots

CYMK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key and uses subtractive colour synthesis to create any colour. It is wrong to assume that when designing for printing that the colours you see on the screen will look the same when printed. We recommend designing your artwork in CYMK colour mode or by converting your file into CYMK colour mode. RGB colour settings are not an accurate representation of the printed colour output.PC: Smart Levels MediaA hexadecimal code (abbreviated as HEX code) is a combination of letters and numbers preceded by a hashtag which indicates a certain colour in the RGB colour model. It is comprised of six characters (after the hashtag) where the first two digits indicate the amount of red in the colour, the middle two indicate the amount of green in said colour, and the last two indicate the amount of blue. These can be seen as the red, green, and blue pair respectively. It is used exclusively on screens, unlike Pantone which is used in print. Hex codes ultimately label every colour that your electronic device (usually a computer) can produce, which is around 16 million colour combinations. It uses the hexadecimal system which can seem quite tricky at first but the easiest HEX codes are #000000 (black) and #FFFFFF (white). Essentially FF is the maximum amount of colour a pair can have and 00 is the lowest amount of colour possible. So, for instance, the colour red is labelled as #FF0000 since it doesn’t contain any blue or green.

PC, Unsplash: Markus Spiske

PMS: Pantone Matching System

  • Use: Printing (offset only)
  • Ideal for: Stationery, one or two colour jobs, spot colours in premium brochures
  • What is it: Standardized colour inks of Pantone company, universal numbering system of 700 colours for identifying and matching colours without contact
  • Advantages: Provides accurate colour consistency, can be used for tiny type/lines, can be used for metallic/fluorescent colours, yields more vibrant/brighter colours, knowing product colour allows for quality assurance
  • How it is used: Designers use numbered Pantone colour swatches that printers can then reference to allow the same colour to be printed no matter where it is
PC, Unsplash: Markus Spiske


When it comes to printing, you’ll need to know what a dieline is. A dieline is an electronic file usually supplied by the printer to show where the measurements and the cut marks are for a specific print or package. Think of this as a blueprint of your print job before your order is sent to be manufactured. Dielines need to be created in ‘Adobe Illustrator’ and you need to ensure that the colours used are in CMYK format. When sending Adobe Illustrator dieline files to a supplier, check that all images are embedded so that there aren’t any missing images when the supplier receives the file. Here’s an example of a dieline for a folding carton box:

When designing packaging remember to include bleeds in your design. Bleeds are used in printing to ensure that no unprinted edges will occur, an image or colour will be printed beyond the edge of where the sheet will be trimmed. The surplus that needs to be trimmed off is referred to as the “bleed”. This means that whatever artwork one wants to print on a surface should be made a little bigger than the surface itself so that when said surface is trimmed, it is coloured in its entirety.

In the image below, you can see how there is a white line on the left side of the box. This is one of the reasons why having bleeds is useful in packaging. An alternate solution, in this case, is to have the box be covered in the same colour where folds occur, which can be seen beneath.

When designing something that is intended to be printed, a proof is a final look at how your image or design will appear before the volume printing of the print job begins. This helps to see if any last-minute adjustments should be made, as well as if the overall layout and dimensions are satisfactory. The factors to be considered when selecting which proofing method to use are cost, repeatability, and accuracy.

There are several types of proofs which comprise of:

Electronic/PDF proofs: One of the easiest and most common proofs used, they provide an accurate representation of the document’s size and appearance. However, a monitor’s calibration will affect the quality of the image which doesn’t always result in accurate colour representation.

Digital proofs: This proofing method consists of having your artwork in a digital file printed using a highly accurate inkjet or colour laser to give a close approximation of the final product. This method is less costly as it doesn’t use film.

Blueline/Dylux proofs: These proofs are printed on a light-sensitive paper that only reproduces in blue. This means that different colours will appear in different shades of blue. This type of proof isn’t recommended for artwork where colour is important.

Laminate/Matchprint proofs: While on the more costly side of proofs, this kind of proofing gives an accurate colour representation. If colour matching is crucial, this type of proof is recommended.

Press proofs: The most expensive type of proofing, this method involves printing artwork exactly as one would for the final press run. It ensures maximum accuracy and enables the possibility of seeing how the final product and printed colour is affected by trimming, folding, etc.

Ready to #UnpackYourMojo?

PackMojo makes it easy for businesses to get affordable, high quality, custom packaging. Create custom packaging today with our 3D packaging design tool.

Visit PackMojo to learn more about us and feel free to connect with us at any time!