Beth Motta Design & Marketing

Choosing a logo color

You’ve narrowed down your designer’s 20 original logo concepts to one perfect representation of your brand. Now it is time to add color. Red, blue, green… you may have an idea of which colors will best suit your company’s identity. One thing you probably have not considered is how you are going to maintain color consistency when using your logo and brand colors across many different formats. Here are some precautions you can take in the beginning to ensure the best results.

How will your logo be used?

First, collaborate with your designer to lay out all possible scenarios of how your logo will be used. Will you be placing your logo into a brochure or print collateral? Will you be using your logo on a website or an online banner ad? Different usage will require different color formats. Your designer should supply you with all the necessary file types for any project that comes up.

RGB (red, green, blue): digital format

You will need your logo in RGB format for websites, online banner ads, video presentations and additional digital formats. There are a plethora of monitor calibrations out there (yes El Guapo), so your colors may vary from one screen to the next. You should never choose logo colors, which will be used in print, solely by looking at your computer screen. As monitors vary, so will the prints in comparison to your screen. Your designer will not be able to guess exactly how a color will output simply by looking at his or her computer screen.

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black): four-color process printing

CMYK color formatting is used in digital and offset printing. Professional print machines will mix a percentage of each color value to the corresponding values in your digital file. Four-color process is most cost effective with collateral containing full-color photography or more than four colors. In this format, final color outputs can vary from one print shop to the next. To get the output you desire, be sure to take the following precautions:

If you have a previously printed piece of collateral you would like to color match, supply your print rep with a hard copy so they can color correct on press.

BE SURE TO SIGN OFF ON A PRINTED PROOF. Unlike some digital projects, once a job is printed, there is no going back and although a printed proof can be costly… it beats paying for a complete reprint if the final color is off.

If you are printing with fewer than four colors or don’t mind paying for a fifth color, print with a solid Pantone® color (see below).

PMS (Pantone® matching system)

The Pantone® Matching System (PMS) is a worldwide, standardized system for color printing. While four-color process mixes cyan, magenta, yellow and black, Pantone® colors are solid pre-mixed colors created in a lab and distributed to your local print shops. Choosing PMS colors for your logo and brand is a good way to establish color consistency. Another advantage—if you are printing an offset job with fewer than four colors, printing with PMS colors can save cost. Your designer may have a Pantone® swatch book, so you can choose from the colors available. Look at the PMS to CMYK conversion book and be sure your designer chooses a Pantone® color with little or no change when the logo converts to CMYK. This way, your Pantone® and CMYK prints will more closely match.

Black and white and reversed out

BE SURE YOUR LOGO WORKS IN BLACK AND WHITE. Newspaper ads, program books… there are so many instances where you or another party may need to use your logo in black and white, so be sure you have grayscale, solid black and reversed out versions. If you have gradients, you maybe prefer a grayscale logo, but some collateral and stocks like newspaper may not print “screens” well and you will wish you had a version in solid black. Maybe a third party needs to place your logo on a black background… having your logo in white will give it the pop it needs to look sharp and stand out.

Phew! Hope that wasn’t too confusing! In general, color is not an exact science and can be very tricky to deal with especially in printing. If you run into a bind or don’t know which way to go, your print vendors and designers are always there to help you out, so don’t be afraid to ask!

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Beth is the owner, lead designer and developer of BMD&M. Beth blogs about design, development and DIY projects. When she's not blogging, she teaches as an adjunct instructor at a local college. Beth also tweets for BMD&M.

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