What is the difference between CMYK and Pantone? When Pantone is recommended in design and when CMYK?

I have a logo which is using C(Blue) 100% and I need its Pantone code, But unable to find it online or in illustrator.

  • 1
    Scott, that name convention is not the PMS system, it is the home and fashion one. ;)
    – Rafael
    Dec 13, 2021 at 19:03
  • oops :) you're, of course, correct @Rafael Cyan for Pantone is... well.. Cyan :) My point was this is all answerable with 20 seconds of Google searching.
    – Scott
    Dec 13, 2021 at 23:04

2 Answers 2


Pantone colours include a wider range than CMYK. The range of CMYK is limited by what can be achieved by combining four colours of pigment, and while those four colours provide a good range of colours, colours outside of that range can be achieved with different pigments. Pantone specifies as wide a range of colours as possible, not limited to CMYK. CMYK values are also less accurate, as interaction between the pigments produces more variation. Specifying a Pantone colour would always be more accurate, but if the result is going to be printed using CMYK process, then the CMYK value is what you will actually get, so you might as well use that to have a better idea what the result will actually be.

As I understand in practice it is very difficult to predict the exact result, there is a lot of expert knowledge in colour printing.

Pantone lists a colour called "PMS Process Cyan" which I understand to mean "Cyan used in CMYK printing process". There is also a "PMS Process Magenta" and "PMS Process Yellow". Actual pigments will vary, but Pantone PMS Process Cyan was a fairly good match to the two printing inks I measured, so I would start with that.

  • No its not hard to predict anymore, even pantone knows this. All you need is to run a photospectrometer over a calibration print every now and then. Which is why pantone is a subsidiary of a calibration system maker and not the other way around. Most mid to high end digital print machines have the calibrator built in. Its just a bit painful to keep monitors calibrated but thats all. So its more likely that a well calibrated workflow is more accurate. But if you need to define spectral distributions as opposed to colors like say coca cola then you have no choice but to mix the ink.
    – joojaa
    Sep 9, 2022 at 10:50
  • @joojaa you are correct of course, but a minor point in favor of timothy is that complete color control and fidelity for a half-page ad in a large run magazine full of myriad high-ink-density designs abutting each other still runs the risk of having a carefully specified beige turning a little red.
    – Yorik
    Sep 9, 2022 at 15:07

Pantone is a custom ink provider. You would use pantone colos if you plan to print with custom colors (called spot colors).

100% Cyan color is not defined. CMYK is a device specific colorspacez in to know how to convert it to same pantone color or the color on any other printer we need to know what CMYK color profile you are using.

  • - If I am using any Pantone color like "PMS 134", I will get the same output from every printer shop?
    – Kabeergfx
    Dec 13, 2021 at 7:26
  • @Kabeergfx Sort of, but it depends there might be a mixing error and different papers result in different results. Also if you must use a method that can use spot channels and probably you will be limitted to that color and black. OR if using process colors you must have assurances that they twak the colors to match. Its not a color matching system as such.
    – joojaa
    Dec 13, 2021 at 8:43
  • @Joojaa, Not entirely correct. A 100%C could be interpreted as pantone.com/eu/es/connect/PROCESS-BLUE-C
    – Rafael
    Jan 13, 2022 at 12:12
  • @Rafael yes but panotone is not the only ink vendor. For most devices the ink is something. If you want to be really sure you specify the ink
    – joojaa
    Jan 13, 2022 at 12:34

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