I'm designing a brand for a startup company, (new to freelancing) and I'm trying to make my color choices suitable for printed documents as well as displaying them on web.

Using Illustrator (doc in CMYK mode). When I choose good CMYK colors, the out of web color warning shows up, when I click on it, it corrects it to unsuitable color.

So, how do professional designers deal with this?

Do they provide a different color palette for each of CMYK, RGB and Pantone? (that will probably look similar but not the same)

Is it better to start with pantone colors and then convert them to RGB (for web) and CMYK (for print)?

  • 6
    Be warned that the 'out of web' warning is severely out of date. It appears on any colour where the rgb code's even digits do not match the ones preceding it. This restriction is relevant only for the most restricted and obsolete colour displays anymore.
    – Vincent
    May 28, 2015 at 15:52

5 Answers 5


Yes, You should create a brand guideline for your startup. Specify a Pantone (which will be easy to get a CMYK value from), RGB and HEX for each color swatch.

Google brand guidelines or identity guide and you will see many examples of how to get started.


Depends on the type of client... are they a general client that might use their branding all types (CMYK) ... or is it a web client that's mainly online (RGB)?

In my opinion MOST clients you should stay away from ANY Pantones since 99% of the time all their print and advertising will be in CMYK. This will allow you to reproduce it on more products. Unless they are that type of person that wants "Coca Cola Red" etc As long as they know all their printing would require pantone printing which drives up all of their marketing costs in every type of printing they do. Unless they do other types of business lets say screenprint - well thats a whole different color system.

Get yourself a CMYK color reference guide for starters, and one that shows pantone and the closest CMYK perhaps is a good idea to know what to expect when you print things.

I've been doing printing for over 20 years and the common mistakes I always see is why did my blue turn purple? Why isn't my bright color bright? etc... Knowing what inks do on the press is invaluable... Color change, dot gain on paper type etc. I don't care how much "Monitor & printer calibration" you do it is never going to match what you get off the press - I've taken uncalibrated profiles and got better more vibrant colors than a guy that spent all day creating a profile ... Unless you get a REAL press check you will never know... and 99.9% of the time you are not the only job on the press, thus you will not be able to get a press check... and even if you were... its running right then... unless you "own the run" you won't be able to make changes if you are on the press... but the press operator can tweak values, but only if you own the entire run otherwise they adjust for the whole.

  • This! It seems nobody in design today understands that ink on paper (or cloth, glass or whatever) is fundamentally different than photons. And the obsession with "Pantone colors" when they have no idea what Pantone ink is. And monitor calibration! Mostly pointless for press work. Matchprints, swatch books, printed samples and press checks are the only way to go. Great answer.
    – user8356
    Mar 1, 2018 at 18:45

i have found that if you are going to using pantones and then creating documents for print and digital. iDevices seem to change the colors when PDFs are created out of illustrator but inDesign seems to keep the colors close when printed and used on mobile or iDevices.

I would really setup a style guide like Shelena stated, that way the colors will be the same throughout any media.


Whenever I create color palettes for real or hypothetical brands, I get a general idea of what I want for the palette and then I go to color.adobe.com. I love this site because it will help you choose appropriate colors for complementing or contrast and it provides color codes for each shade in CMYK, RGB, LAB, HSB, and HEX.

When you put together the style guide for the new brand, make sure you at least include CMYK, RGB, and HEX (but I think you already know that).


I'll tell you what I usually do. Whenever designing a new brand I choose my colours from a pantone book. This is because it is the tools I found colour was actually accurate. After this I go online and some websites give you the correspondence of that particular pantone in CMYK and RGB.

This is the website with an example:


This has worked just fine for me.

Just don't forget to include on your band guidelines a shape with pantone and one with CMYK and RGB. This is because every time you send something to print some machines may not read the pantone reference. (I am assuming you will work in illustrator).

Last but not least always always give the production company your pantone reference and ask for proof of colours because that way you will be able to avoid nasty suprises.

So basically, it is not exactly different colour palettes but different colour values. And you should always have CMYK values and RGB values on your brand guideline documents along side the pantone you chose.

Also it will happen in illustrator that when you have a document in CMYK mode and insert RGB values they will change slightly once you change the document to RGB. If say you are going to save a logo for RGB use make sure you have the correct colour mode set before you tell illustrator the colour values.

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