Paint With All The Colors Of The Wind: RGB, CMYK, PMS, 4-Color Process, Spot Color – Make Your Board Game Gorgeous

We’ve covered which type of printing process and paper to use for your prototype and final game, now were going to bridge the gap between art and production and talk color.

Below is a quick primer on the color jargon you’ll run into.


RGB: Red, Green, Blue – refers to LIGHT. Used exclusively for electronic viewing since monitors display images with light.  100 percent red, green and blue results in WHITE.  Request RGB design and illustration for web graphics, online previews of your components, and the headers for your KS page. If you print RGB, most modern printers can deal with interpreting RGB into their CMYK outputs, but it can still result in a muddy output. It’s best practice to use RGB for web and CMYK for print.

CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black – conventional printing colors. Also used as a generic name for 4-color process, the 4-colors refer to cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.  100 percent C, M, Y, & K is BLACK. Request all production graphics in CMYK so they will reproduce as expected. On a quote, 4-color process will appear as 4/0 for single sided or 4/4 for 4-color process on both sides.

PMS: Pantone® Matching System, “PMS” is followed by 3-4 numbers that indicate the specific color. PMS is used for precision color when a specific color is important. On quotes you will see this listed as 4+1 or 4+2 or 4/4 + Spot Color, indicating 5 or six colors used in printing.  That means Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black + PMS 187 is 4 color process plus fire engine red.  You can also order prints in 1 color and indicate a PMS color rather than black (1 color process is usually black) – a great trick to have color printing by save printing costs.  PMS can also be used to add metallic colors to a print job.  Spot color is another term for PMS because technically PMS is a brand.  TIP 1:  If a specific metallic gold or silver is not that important to you, you may be able to save money on printing by asking the printer what they have in stock and using the “house PMS metallic gold.”  TIP 2: When looking at a PMS color chart like the one shown below, pay attention to the C after the numbers – it’s what it will look like on coated stock.  You guessed it, the C stands for “coated” – coated refers to gloss, matte, and dull finishes applied to paper.  UC is similarly “uncoated” like the paper in the copy machine.

PMS Color Charts

PMS Color Charts

Have questions about color?  Hit me!

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