CMYK vs RGB vs Pantones


RGB is a color model that is associated with computer monitors, tvs, video cameras and many other electronic devices with digital displays. RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue. Based on the percentage emitted, red, green, and blue lights combine to yield different colors. It is an additive color model, meaning that the more color added to a mix, the brighter it becomes. You can take a microscope and look at a computer monitor up close, and you’ll see a sea of tiny red, green and blue lights. These tiny lights are microscopic lightbulbs that simulate millions of different colors onto your screen. 

RGB color is identified through hex codes. Hex codes are six digit values that identify a whole range of “web colors” or RGB colors that you see on your monitor. There are a total of 16,777,216 combinations for hex codes.

 RGB Color Mix



CMYK is a color model that is associated with inks, paint and printed matter. Unlike RGB, it is a subtractive color model, meaning that the more color added to the mix, the darker it will become. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK. CMYK is also known as the process colors. In silkscreen printing, CMYK is a color model often utilized to print photorealistic or high color imagery. A wide range of colors can be simulated with the mixture of CMYK. 

Here at Money Merch, we prefer to use spot color or simulated process for silk screen printing. With these two methods, we see more vibrant, and color accurate prints that look fantastic on any color garment. We also have a lot more control with the prints compared to the CMYK method. CMYK printing on a white shirt can look great, but when printing the same graphic on a black shirt, it requires a base layer and that can throw off the graphics colors quite a bit. For the most consistent results throughout multiple colored shirts, spot color and simulated process silk screen printing is highly recommended.




When a digital art file is created, the color mode is usually set at RGB as the standard. The RGB color range is much more extensive compared to CMYK. Because the RGB is produced through radiated lights, a wide range of fluorescent, extremely colorful and bright colors can be formed that simply cannot be recreated through CMYK. When designing for spot color or simulated process printing, we recommend designing in RGB. When designing for DTG printing, we recommend CMYK as DTG prints in water based CMYK ink.



The pantone color guide is a standardized set of color codes that most designers and print shops use for reference. If you ask for “Pantone Cool Gray C”, a print shop will know exactly what color to print, and it should produce the same result every time. This allows for color accuracy and consistency, which is ideal if you want your prints to match a company logo, or if you plan on placing re-orders of the same design. But depending on the print technique, and what type of garment you are printing on, the same pantone can potentially slightly vary. For example, if you print the same pantones on a 50/50 cotton/poly blend shirt and one that's 100% cotton, there might be a slight variance in print colors. 

Plastisol ink

At Money Merch, we always recommend our clients to pick out their own pantones so the prints turn out as accurate as possible, especially if your artwork is spot color. We use the “solid coated pantone guide book”. 

You can opt for us to try and match the digital colors in your artwork, but there can be discrepancies due variance in color calibration. The colors you see on your monitor can vary from what we see on ours.



The Pantone Color guide is a physical booklet with pages filled with square color swatches and a unique code associated with it. When trying to determine what colors to print, designers will typically hold a pantone booklet near the digital art on their computer screen and identify the closest color for print. There are millions of RGB color combinations, and tens of thousands of CMYK color combinations. But there are only 1,867 solid coated pantones to choose from. So there will never be a 100% exact match for every color in either spectrum, but good designers will be able to identify the closest pantone match for their prints. 

If you base your color selection on a RGB hex code, it would have to be translated to a pantone color in the guide book. What we think is the closest match may not be the exact same as what your eyes see. That's why it's ideal to have your own pantone guide book to review in person to avoid any discrepancies.

Pantone Formula

Here’s a link to get your very own pantone color guide booklet:

For printing on garments we use the Solid Coated Pantone Booklet. 

If you need assistance with what print method or what pantones to choose, Money Merch is here to help. We are based in Southern California, but we service clients from all over the United States. Contact us today to get a quote.

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