Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Color / Colour

Let’s talk about color. How about RGB, CMYK, HTML – what does all that mean? I’ve had clients ask that very same question. What’s the best color for my project? Well…that is another very good question. To a client there is only one color - the one that they like. To a designer it means hundreds of colors - there are multiple hues, tints, shades, blends, etc. that might come close to a client’s favorite color. What about the client that cannot see multiple colors – how will all of this change your design?

Color-blindness makes it difficult or impossible to distinguish some colors, depending on which receptor is affected. The term color-blindness itself is somewhat of a misnomer, since color perception is altered, not eliminated. True color-blindness, wherein a person can distinguish no color at all, requires a malfunction of all three kinds of color receptors, and affects only 0.003% of the population regardless of gender.

Color is a beautiful and complex subject. It has the power to subliminally convey values and/or tell us stories. Perform a web search and you’ll find a multitude of articles regarding the many shades of color. This article is just my spin on color encounters as a creative graphic designer.

RGB stands for the colors of Red, Green, and Blue. Add together red, green, and blue light to create white light. Additive primaries are the result of adding the colors together to get White. Colors on screen are displayed by mixing varying amounts of red, green, and blue light.
Working with images destined for the screen or the Web, we designate colors by the amount of red, green, or blue in the color. In your graphics software these numbers might look like this: 255-RED, 255-GREEN, 0-BLUE. A number between 1-255 designates the amount of each RGB color. Keep in mind that RGB refers to an on-screen color mode.

CMYK - To reproduce full-color photographic images, typical printing presses use 4 colors of ink. The four inks are placed on the paper in layers of dots that combine to create the illusion of many more colors. CMYK refers to the 4 ink colors used by the printing press or subtractive primaries plus black.  C = cyan (a blue-green color), M = magenta (a reddish pink color), Y = yellow, and K is a pure black ink, the key plate or keyline color.

PMS – (Pantone Matching System) Pantone’s color matching system uses a unique coding scheme. (examples PANTONE 185 C, PANTONE Rubine Red, PANTONE Cool Gray 1): There are over 1,400 solid (spot) colors that comprise the PMS for printing ink on paper. The majority of these colors are referred to using a three– or four–digit number followed by a C, M or U. The letter suffix refers to the paper stock on which it is printed: C for coated or gloss paper, U for uncoated paper and M for matte or dull paper.  There is a small selection of colors in this System that use names or name and number combinations, such as the 14 base colors (i.e., PANTONE Reflex Blue C, PANTONE Orange 021 U) and grays and blacks (i.e., PANTONE Cool Gray 5 C, PANTONE Black 3 U).

HTML - colors are defined using a hexadecimal (hex) notation for the combination of Red, Green, and Blue color values (RGB). HEX – Hexadecimal Number System is a base 16 number system and is used by computers to reference colors. We generally use a 10 base number system starting with 0 to 9. In the hexadecimal system the range is 0 to F. The Hex system is just another way to select browser safe color palettes, and choose readable color combinations to use effectively on the Web.

OK, so some color definitions may be way too complicated for newbies and too much information for the client that wants everything now. The point is - consistency. You want your color to match your client’s design across all platforms – printed materials, presentation, and web design. You want your design to come as close to a color match as you can for your client. This should be true for your own personal marketing – business cards, stationery and for those who have their own website. Oh yes…both spellings are correct (color/colour) depending upon where you live (US or anywhere else).

So keep it clean, keep it fresh, keep it colorful and most importantly keep it simple.