I am going to buy Pantone (C/U) and CMYK (C/U) patterns. How should I choose the colors for my designs? First CMYK, then Pantone and RGB last?
- Pick your Pantone colours. It's important to pick these in a light that you will view them in typically. If your designs will be viewed outside, see what they look like in daylight (if you can, at different times of the day as the light will change and time permitting on a cloudy / sunny / rainy day).
- Once you have picked your Pantone, then you should the be able to make your CMYK match too.
- Now you pick your RGB. Remember that so far we have picked colours that your eye see with reflected light and RGB is projected light (see this for more info). Don't try to get an exact match, remember different monitors have different contrast and lightness settings, so these can effect your colours quite a lot. Pick you colour that work well over multiple monitors (and if possible check it on a TV as well, I recommend this as you never know when your logo will appear on a TV or projector at an event).
The short answer is, pick Pantones first and then test, test, test!
Pantone helpfully supply conversion breakdowns to both CMYK and RGB (via their colour bridge swatch books, their app or their website). Use these as a starting point, then test.
For RGB, test the colours across different screens and devices, including any ‘key’ screens for the brand (if you have access to them). Adapt RGB breakdowns to get the best average colours across all the screens.
For CMYK, test across a variety of print processes and substrates – litho coated, litho uncoated, digital and newsprint would be my recommendation as a minimum. As with RGB, if there are any print processes and substrates relevant to ‘key’ touch-points for the brand, then you should also consider testing these. If the cost of ‘wet proofing’ is not an option, then use a colour-calibrated proofing system such as a GMG RIP combined with a multi-ink ink jet printer. My preference is to use a GMG enabled proofer first to pick optimal colour breakdowns before verifying the colours with wet-proofing.
A few pointers on the above…
Pantone-recommended conversion breakdowns are a good starting point but usually need adjusting slightly to get the best results for some colours
If a CMYK Pantone-recommended breakdown includes low percentages (1%, 2%, 3%), I'd usually rationalise the breakdown down to 0%. The same applies to very high percentages (95%+), I'd usually rationalise these to 100%. The reason being to reduce the amount of inks and printed screens/dots
The importance of the colour testing stage in a brand re-design is often vastly under-estimated and under-scoped. The relative low-cost of testing compared to brand roll-out costs should be obvious, but is often only realised after expensive mistakes!
The exception to this process is if you are designing for a digital-led brand, whose presence is predominantly going to be on-screen. In this instance, consider starting with RGB so you get the benefit of the brighter colours and larger colour-gamut available on-screen.
Printing method is the determining factor, and the only thing that matters. Are you going to print with RGB colors? No, of course not. Are you going to print with Pantone colors? Are you sure? The vast majority of commercial printing, from newspapers to magazines to flyers to direct mail cards to books to postcards -- is web or sheet fed offset with process colors (CMYK). If that's the method you'll be using for printed materials, that is the color system to work in. It's vital to have a swatch book that is printed with the method you will use, on similar paper stock. Look at Focoltone and especially TRUMATCH for CMYK.
The idea of starting with Pantone and converting to CMYK is a fresh-from-art-school mistake. That is not how production designers with real press experience work, because it's not accurate. You must use actual print samples -- and get matchprints, and do press checks -- if you don't want nasty surprises in process print jobs.
If you really are doing a lot of spot color (like Pantone) printing, then make sure, again, to match the paper stock, screen frequency, and brand. Don't specify Pantone colors using Pantone swatch books, and then go to a press that uses different brands of ink.
I don't think it matters which order you pick your colors in since they're all used differently.
The point of Pantone is that you get the exact color you pick every time it's printed anywhere. CMYK can vary from printer to printer and RGB can vary from display to display.
Also, you can't just pick a Pantone color in Illustrator/Photoshop, then change the color system to CMYK/RGB to get those values and think it will be equivalent. The conversion color values will vary depending on your color profile. It's an ok way to start, but you'll have to test and probably tweak them to make sure they work for your artwork.