February 20, 2024

Logo Design – choosing the best colour for repeatable results

Logo Design – choosing the best colour for repeatable results
Logo Design – choosing the best colour for repeatable results
Reading Time
5 minutes

We create logos for businesses throughout many industries and stages of a business life cycle. Some starting out, some well-established.

Choosing the colour for your design can be tricky. You may want to use something that makes you stand out against your competitors or maybe a favourite colour.

Logo colours and emotions evoked in their use.

There are many studies out there which go into what emotion certain colours generate, be it green or blue for calm, or red can be a colour which may provoke stress.

Personally, we don’t buy into the emotions that specific colours are said to invoke. If we did, nearly all logos would be blue, and none would use colour to differentiate themselves from a competitor. For example, most plumbers use blue as their colour (blue = water). Using pink or another colour would go a long way to make them stand out with their logo.

Being able to replicate colours in print or digital.

One thing which is important however, is that colours need to be considered for their purpose and the ability to be replicated whether it is used in a digital asset, print or on a sign.

Take printing for example. When printing in full colour, all colours are a mix of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The percentage of each of these colours used in the mix, gives us the CMYK colour that can be reproduced.

In digital form, colours are made using a different process and this boils down to being a mix of red, green and blue commonly referred to as RGB.

When we print something, we need to use the four base CMYK colours to create a colour, however on a screen, we use three base colours (red, green and blue).

The problem comes about when a colour is selected using the RGB range and we want to use it for print. RGB colours have a range which extends far beyond what full colour print colours can achieve using the standard four colour mix. Generally, the RGB colour is brighter and more vibrant, and the mix used for CMYK reproduction is a lot duller.

So, what does this mean when applying to my logo?

If you wish to print a colour using the full colour process, you need to use a colour which can be achieved mixing only Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black ink. This will become a limiting factor when selecting your logo colour.

When creating a logo, we need to work with the lowest common denominator which is how the colour will be reproduced in print. Then we can apply a conversion for the closest colour that can be recreated in RGB for digital use.

You must resist the temptation to select a colour which can only be created in RGB as many businesses will want their business cards, stationery and signs to appear as though they are the same colour in print as their digital equivalent (websites, social media etc).

Is there any other way to print a colour closer to the RGB Gamut range?

Yes. However, it involves a process where the colour is used straight or mixed using inks from a range such as the Pantone Matching System (PMS). The trade-off, however, is usually cost.

If you are printing a job in full colour, but your red falls outside the CMYK Gamut, then you can have that red printed as a spot colour. This requires the press operator to mix up your red using a system such as PMS, and then print your job. Unfortunately, as most press operators now use the CMYK system for everything, it would mean that your job would need to be printed on its own.

Full colour printing has reduced in price significantly in the past 2 decades, because press operators “gang-print”, where they combine many jobs using the same stock (example printing 120 different business cards on one sheet of card). To add a fifth colour (such as your custom red along with the standard cyan, magenta, yellow and black), would require in most cases, that the job is run by itself as no other job requires that custom colour.

This is also the case in printing fluoro inks and spot varnish (although spot varnish is used widely now so many press operators run this as a fifth ink anyway).

Examples of a poor colour choice for reproduction

Here is an example of three different RGB colours and their closest equivalent when using in CMYK. A very common colour we get requested is teal or light blue which can’t be reproduced well in print.

cmyk vs rgb colours
RGB colours and their closest CMYK equivalent shown

Choosing your new logo colour needn’t be difficult, but its best to start with the CMYK colour first so that you aren’t disappointed when the colour you select can’t be reproduced on your printed collateral.

In some cases, such as embroidery, more vibrant colours will be available than your CMYK equivalent to select from. Armed with this knowledge, you can make the best decision when making your colour selection. Any professional designer will understand this and guide you through the appropriate process to make sure you get it right the first time without needing to backtrack when you start rolling out your brand in print.

Articles Menu
latest articles
arrow left icon
right arrow icon