Why do my corporate colours look different?

Tuesday, 26 May 2015  |  Posted in: Articles  |  3min read

“I just want my logo in my red, ok ?!”

Your logo and corporate image as represented on your website should look pretty much identical to your poster, your letterhead, your embroidered shirt and even your coffee mug. Unfortunately, we don’t always see this in the marketplace. If you are a Brand Manager, we can understand your frustration.

But with so many mediums to cater for, how do you ensure that your brand colours stay consistent?

Different mediums address colour in different ways and because of this, you need to be dealing with experienced people who understand the differences and find the solutions that keep your brand looking cohesive from traditional to digital. We’ve found that having experience across multiple communication channels is key, otherwise your Corporate ID could end up a bit of a mess. It can be enough to make you cry in your coffee (PMS175).

So, what is your red ?

The medium being used dictates the way colour is treated. Throughout various mediums, there are generally 3 main systems used to address colour. They are:



Pantone Matching System is a universal proprietary colour system (meaning it’s a company) used for exact colour matching. PMS has a suite of some 4,154 colours spanning solid, neon and metallic colours. There is no mixing required. In print, you simply open a tin of PMS485 and print warm red. For screens and other mediums, as it is an exact colour that never changes, PMS charts can be used as a visual reference point to match colour.


CMYK (4 colour process)

This is probably the most common colour system. The acronym stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (or black). Key is the substitute name for black – why I hear you ask* ? Primarily, the other 3 colours are laid over the top of the base or ‘key’ colour (black) and aligned. Black is the base colour because it is common in most things you are reproducing – it gives shape and dimension through shadows. These 4 base colours placed together in various percentages form most colours required – specifically when reproducing photography on paper. (*‘B’ also stands for Blue in RGB. In the digital medium, we convert 4 colour process imagery to RGB for screens.)



Red, Green, Blue is the base colour system for all screens. Whether TV, Monitor, Tablet or Smartphone, all colour displayed on a screen is used by mixing the primary colours of RGB. There are various ways to create RGB – phosphorus powder in tubes (old TVs), LCD, LED, etc. Your websites, eMails, digital photography and videos all use this colour medium. Interestingly, a human eye also ‘sees’ colour in this way – it’s something to do with the cells over the retina and how they process reflected light – confusing isn’t it ?

Some specialist mediums like paints & coatings have their own colour systems but most often, the 3 primary systems above dictate how we reproduce colour.


What it all means.

With the different ways colour is reproduced, some colour matches can go through different translations to get the end result. If you are using a professional who understands these differences, they should highlight any potential issues and suggest the best match possible or offer a viable alternative. In many cases, those differences will be virtually undetectable and your brand will be represented consistently.

Occasionally a particular colour may be a challenge to reproduce in a particular medium. If you are using a professional organisation like The Digital Embassy, you will probably never know that it was a problem.

Ready to talk about your requirements?

Phone us on 1300 375 368 for an obligation-free chat with a digital specialist about how we can help to scale up your business online.

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