Color is a complex topic when talking about managing a brand. There are many gamuts of color that need to be managed in order to promote your brand consistently and accurately. Having proper guidelines in place for managing your brand colors in print and the digital world are imperative for maintaining consistency. Having guidelines beyond print and digital are important too, especially if your brand is applied to clothing, signage, vehicles and promotional items. The key areas to focus on when managing color are:

Print can be broken down into two worlds. SPOT color (Pantone colors) and CMYK. Pantone is the color standard, at least in North America. Pantone provides their recommendation for breaking down their colors into print and digital and in some cases, material and textile. Because Pantone is the standard their recommendations are very accurate. Some deviation can be expected depending on the printer you use. CMYK printing (four-color process) is a standard and having your brand colors broken down into the proper cyan, magenta, yellow and black color formula is important for managing your brand colors when printed with other four-color process items such as photography.

Digital applies to web, social media, video and basically anything that is viewed on a screen in the RGB world. Having your brand colors defined for RGB (red, green, blue) and for HTML is vital for proper representation on screen.

Signage and Fleet Graphics
Signage can be broken down to vinyl and paint. While Pantone dabbles in this space, there is much interpretation and this is normally an area where there is more color breakdown. Vinyl manufactures have colors that are close to and comparable to Pantone. Colors can be printed on vinyl to match CMYK specifications. There are many paint manufacturers whose colors do not directly correspond with Pantone, so visual matching and testing needs to happen in order to find a color that best represents your brand.

Embroidery and Silkscreening
Again, Pantone dabbles in this area, but there are many thread manufacturers that have their own colors that do not correspond to Pantone. So visually matching or using the thread manufacturer’s breakdown and comparison to Pantone is a start, but visually matching and picking colors that present your brand best is a critical step. Silk screening inks are different too, but using a Pantone color as a target you can generally find the proper match.

Managing colors in these basic mediums is challenging when you add the variables of printers and vendors working on your branded materials. Going through a thorough process up front and defining your colors for each is important and something that should be done before producing and sharing materials with your brand. It’s a vital step and imperative to promoting a consistent, well conceived brand.

Equally important is educating employees and users of the brand on correct color use. Over the years we’ve had many frantic conversations with clients who are using RGB files for CMYK print, or printing Pantone colors on substrates that are not white…resulting in frustration and confusion as to why the end result is not “on brand.” With these variables, managing color can make you pull your hair out. But, with upfront, proactive work and time spent, it can be successfully managed.


Helping create, manage, and deliver brands from start to finish.

In collaboration with Bluebird Branding