I've been supplied a branding colour palette from the company with their primary brand colour. They have supplied the Pantone spot and CMYK number for this brand colour but the two colours are slightly different. Which one do I use?

  • What are you using it for? A print job in CMYK, single/two colour print, or for something else? CMYK colours are never exactly the same as a spot colour because both utilise different print processes.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 10:57
  • You would hope that the cmyk and panatone color are different. Otherwise why bother. Anyway if you know the color space the cmyk is defined in then use that.
    – joojaa
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 10:58

2 Answers 2


You can use either one.

A Pantone color is always slightly different from the equivalent CMYK value. This is why there are Pantone swatch books out there, to provide the closest matching CMYK value of every Pantone color.

Both are fine to use on print work, since they are included in the branding guideline. Now, deciding between using the Pantone or the CMYK comes down to specific variables:

  • costs and timing: in some cases printing with Pantone could slightly increase the production price and timing. This may or may not be the case, but it should be checked with your local printer.
  • the importance of the item: if its a short-lifespan flyer, it may not be important, so CMYK will work. For a long-term usage brochure, a better quality print might be relevant, so go with Pantone.
  • check with the client and your local printer and factor in the above

Using the PMS color is usually the best choice - even if you're printing a process project - since you have consistency across all promotional material. The most important color on any project is the brand color or the client logo. With the brand color in PMS, no matter how you adjust the process on the printed sheet, the PMS color will always remain the same since it's on a separate plate.

If you're locked into only printing process colors, by budget or manufacturing limitations, then you use the process equivalent. Try to keep as close to the client brand color as possible with the understanding that you will never match the PMS color exactly.

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