8 Replies Latest reply on Apr 13, 2015 10:44 AM by devoeas

    Why are they different? Help!


      Hi guys! I somehow never really learned about color management and every time I try to research (googling questions/terms or searching these forums) I just can't get my head around it. I've been given a style guide to work from for print, web, and screen materials, and I'm hoping I can get some guidance on how best to proceed.


      This is a screenshot of the color information in the PDF I've been provided:



      This is a screenshot of what happens when I create swatches of the CMYK values / RGB values / Pantone process colors in InDesign and fill shapes with them (plus an extra blue color we use):




      I guess I can understand why the RGB is different, but I don't get why the CMYK/Pantone colors are different from each other. Is this supposed to happen? Is this monitor settings, color profile settings? I've played around with some things but they basically always look like that.


      I've also been given 2 EPS logo files from our central office, 2 color and 4 color. For me, they appear as different colors (both the orange and blue) in both InDesign and Illustrator since one is Pantone and one is CMYK. But, when I import the EPS files into photoshop, they look the same. Is this the same issue?


      I have to use these colors in a whole lot of applications - web, screen graphics, things we print in-house (i.e. laser printer or copier), things we get printed (usually digitally but sometimes 4 color), imprinted items (often spot color), as well as giving information to people (faculty, administrative assistants) with a wide range of skill levels to create similar. What colors should I be using for those style guide documents (PDF but I know some people will print them)? What colors/logo files should I be telling people to use if I don't know what they're going to do with them? Any help with any of this would be greatly appreciated!

        • 1. Re: Why are they different? Help!
          jdanek Level 4

          Your situation is not unique.  Do not feel as though you are alone.  Someone went through a lot of trouble to give you the numbers.  That is a very comprehensive branding guide.  One thing to be aware of, monitors and the way they display color is oe of the primary reasons you are seeing deviations.  But, Pantone spot color is difficult to match on-screen and in print.  They hardly ever match no matter what you do in color management.  I recommend you get Adobe's Print Publishing Guide.  It is a good source for accurate information.  Google, well is Google.  Here's what I do.  Basicly you have to calibrate your hardware and set your application Color Settings.  Adobe's guidebook can help with that.  The most common mistake I see is the user's monitor is set too bright.  The white point is way off.  Graphic designers must be tech savvy..  My recommendation is to deliver files specific for output.  Those files vary from Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel to internet web applications.  In most cases, CMYK documents will be sent out to vendors.  More specialized applications will require Pantone Spot Color(s) such as stationery and business cards.  The advantage to Spot color is consistency.  The advantage of CMYK is portability to publications.  You have the advantage in that you have the style guide to go by and the hard work is done already.  As far as colors not matching, do not pull your hair out trying to achieve something that is not achievable, especially softproofing on a monitor.  Just make sure you consult with the print vendor first and give them the file requirements they ask for.  Get a solid proofing device for your studio.  A decent proofer would be HP Designjet Z printers or the Epson Stylus Pro line with optional calibration colorphotometer.  When working with clients, get them to sign-off on a hardcopy proof.  Give the proof to the print vendor.  Always work with hardcopy proofs and keep one with the file for reference.

          • 2. Re: Why are they different? Help!
            jdanek Level 4

            One thing I wanted to clear up.  In the first 4 lines of my post I am referring to CMYK matching Pantone.

            • 3. Re: Why are they different? Help!
              devoeas Level 1

              Thank you so much! That does help a lot.


              I guess another concern I have is the big difference between RGB and the others, and just want to make sure that is usual as well. This is a newly released style guide, and while the Pantone orange is the same (and the CMYK is very close) to before, the RGB is SO different. Obviously you can't answer for whether they meant to do that or not, but does it make sense in the strange world of color management that these values would be so different? Or is that a monitor calibration thing?

              • 4. Re: Why are they different? Help!
                jdanek Level 4

                Not necessarily, but not out of the question, either.  I praised the person(s) who developed that style guide, but further investigation into their numbers is troubling.  For instance, when I input the RGB numbers for the Orange ( PMS 1665C ) in my version of Photoshop and then have PS lookup the Pantone number associated with those RGB numbers, I get PMS 172 which appears to be a rusty Orange.. The RGB numbers are 199R / 74G / 10B for PMS 1665C.  On screen, the color matches my printed Pantone "Solid-to-Process" guide and matches identical in Illustrator on-screen ( when I create a rectangle of PMS 1665C butted up against a rectangle of process.  In Photoshop, the Picker is giving me 5%C, 84%M, 100%Y, and 1%K.  In Illustrator, I get 0%C, 68%M, 100%Y, ad 0%K which matches the Pantone Process equivalents in their printed reference guide.  The deviate is Photoshop ad its RGB / CMYK percentages.  That may have something to do with my color settings in Photoshop.  Your style guide shows 0%C, 79%M, 100%Y, and 0%K.  That's an 11% deviation from my 68%M.  In terms of color representation, the 79%M will make a darker Orange than a 68%M.  Not sure why they did that in the style guide.  If I use the style guide CMYK numbers in Photoshop and then lookup the solid Pantone conversion, I get Pantone 173.  So, this brings up the question as to "why"?  I simply do not have time to go through all of their style guide color conversions, but I suspect they may not be where they should be.  Nonetheless, you have to adhere to what they give you as a matter of protocol.  At a minimum, you might ask them how they came up with their conversions under what color settings, what is their gamma set at, and what is their White Point set at.  I myself rather rely on Pantone printed reference guide numbers and use those mainly because they are industry standard printed reference swatches.  Not a monitor.  Remember, everyone sees color slightly differently.  And, on top of that, all monitors display color differently.  Then, add to those variables individual computer operating systems and individual application color settings and you can quickly see how things can go awry.


                "Obviously you can't answer for whether they meant to do that or not, but does it make sense in the strange world of color management that these values would be so different? Or is that a monitor calibration thing?"


                Again, I recommend going by a trusted source...Pantone.  Use their reference numbers and their printed guides.  Then, when the question comes up about deviates, you have evidence to support you choices vs. a style guide that may not be totally accurate.  That said, you have to address the deviates and solve the problem some how.  That may mean going back to whoever developed the style guide and working with them on their justifications for using their specific conversion numbers.  Like I said before, color will look different on all monitors.  In my studio, Illustrator matches the Pantone to a point where you cannot distinguish between the two ( on my monitor which is calibrated ).  Photoshop appears darker ( which could be because of my Color Settings in Photoshop ).  I rely more on Illustrator accuracy than I do in Photoshop accuracy. Taking everything into account and to answer your question in your recent post, it is necessary to calibrate the monitor.  Is the deviation due to an uncalibrated monitor?  Yes and no.  Ideally, you can have more confidence when viewing color on your monitor if it is calibrated.  Will there still be differences?  Probably.  That is why I recommend a printed contract proof over a monitor softproof any day of the week.

                • 5. Re: Why are they different? Help!
                  jdanek Level 4

                  In hopes that you can read this, I took a screen shot of my desktop to show what appears in my version of Illustrator...


                  Picture 1665.png


                  ...feel free to open it in Photoshop ad enlarge it if you want.  Obviously the Photoshop swatch, when placed as a .tiff, appears darker than the Illustrator swatches.  To be expected?  Hypothetically? No. You'd think they should all match.  Visually, the Illustrator swatches match closer than the Photoshop swatch.  The Illustrator swatches print closer to the Pantone printed reference guide, too.

                  • 6. Re: Why are they different? Help!
                    rmphoto Level 1

                    You've got quite a job here. It's basically going to be like herding cats, but to get started, here are a few thoughts:

                    For a particular color to be accurately shared and reproduced across a wide variety of media and output devices, it must first be defined using its Lab value, and then converted into whatever the destination color space is (rgb, cmyk, hex) that best describes the output behavior of the device on which it will be reproduced (offset, inkjet, silkscreen, screen, etc, etc, etc).

                    While the style guide was put together with good intention, it's of very limited use for your needs for two reasons:

                    1. It doesn't include the Lab values of the colors in question, and
                    2. It doesn't indicate which color spaces the CMYK and RGB values are built for. This is a problem, because the RGB and CMYK numbers will vary significantly depending upon which color space they are calculated for.
                    3. Lab is the only one to start with because it's the only color mode that is, for all practical purposes, device-independent. Identifying the Lab value is like putting a stake in the ground; it's not a moving target.


                    The values that are of use are the Pantone #s. You can reverse engineer from the Pantone values to find the Lab values they represent. I'd go to Pantone's website to see what you can find - they list the Lab values of their colors. From that point, move forward and build useable values for each of the destination color spaces you're likely to encounter - like sRGB (the safest way to spec color for screen display), CMYK (...there's a WIDE variety here - depending on the destination color space spec'd by your offset print vendor...), silkscreen (again, confer with your vendor to find out how they want you to communicate color to them - could be Pantone, CMYK, Lab, etc)

                    You can calculate the RGB, CMYK, hex values for specific color spaces using Photoshop with Lab as the starting point.


                    As jdanek helpfully pointed out, the style guide is inconsistent, even when making assumptions about the most likely color spaces the RGB and CMYK values were built for.


                    If you are in a position that requires you to manage your employer's brand - a large part of which is color - it would be worth your while to spend the time to learn as much as you can about color management and, with that knowledge, communicate with all the vendors you use to reproduce that color.


                    Good luck!

                    • 7. Re: Why are they different? Help!
                      rmphoto Level 1

                      I just re-read my comments and realize they're a bit incomplete. I implied that the only only way to identify color unambiguously was to use its Lab value. Well, that is one way, but not the only way.


                      So, here are the ways to communicate color unambiguously:

                      1. Identify its Lab value.
                      2. Identify its RGB value including the color space the RGB value is built for (sRGB, Adobe98, etc).
                      3. Identify its CMYK value including the color space the CMYK value is built for (SWOPv2, Coated GRACoL 2006, etc, etc)


                      Then, using one of those as a starting point, you can convert to any other color space and reproduce the same color (within the limits of the destination space's color gamut - this is a BIG CAVEAT...)


                      The style guide you're working with doesn't offer any of those starting points.



                      • 8. Re: Why are they different? Help!
                        devoeas Level 1

                        Huge thanks to both of you guys! Definitely a big help and I have a slightly clearer picture of how color works in the Adobe world, as well as how to handle the color values and files I was given.


                        After a lot of run around I got an answer from central to one of my larger questions - they DID intend to have the RGB/Hex values be ENTIRELY DIFFERENT COLORS from the PMS/CMYK, so that they are accessibility contrast compliant for web and screen. The obv communicated that very poorly by including all of the values together over a single color! (the HTML web page version of the style guide they released last week presents the color values the exact same way layout and format as the original image I posted, but using the RGB/Hex values listed for the actually color blocks...which is not any better...)