Colour in Print, Brand Identity, Print Edinburgh


Colour is an obvious part of any brand. It helps to define the tone of the message of the attempted message.

Something which is not always considered is creating a bit of flexibility in the logo when creating a brand in order to work with different context where the existing background may clash with the brand colours.

There are a few simple tricks which can be used to help create a brand identity which can be applied in any situation.

  • Consider the logos to be created in full black or full white as a secondary option to the first choice. Or at least a very dark and very light tone of the original colour.
  • Allow any coloured elements to be flipped within the logo. Pick a contrasting colour pallet which is close to the inverse of the primary colour scheme. It allows the tonal contrast between the different elements within the brand to be maintained, even if the colours are different to what is most often used. It is the difference between the different tone which is legible and memorable, not necessarily the colour itself.
  • If in doubt, add a logo version with a small outline around the full shape within the logos. It means there will always be a consistent outline to the name/icon, which can be placed onto any background colour.
  • Try to avoid putting a solid or gradient coloured box around the logo. It makes the logo inflexible and can appear to be poorly considered when branding needs to be applied to a non-regular surface colour or shape.

Thinking about how the brand may be used in more than one context and creating a few variations of tone from the outset will help to define a more consistent brand message down the line.

How colour is perceived is also a fixture of Graphic Design which is not always fully thought through. Digital colour comes in RGB (Red, Green, Blue) or CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black).

RGB is how digital camera and electronic displays create an image.

RGB does not translate well to printed medium. Print uses CMYK.

The main difference between the two formats is that RGB is Additive Colour and CMYK is Subtractive Colour.

Additive colour is when mix colours together to get the correct shade on display, like with painting. Subtractive colour is when you start with white (emulating white light, all colour in the visible spectrum) and you apply filters to block the visible colours you do not want, and to reflect the colours you do want, In print, the filters are the inks used.

There can be a huge difference in the way colours are perceived on screen versus how they will appear in print. With digital display, the way colour is perceived on screen can be altered with screen resolution, monitor settings, or even the lighting in the room you are standing in when looking at the screen. If RGB is used to create brand colours, there will be a completely different tone of colour displayed when the are physically printed in CMYK.

Further to this, different printers will interpret the same RGB values differently depending on their settings and inks available.

Working to CMYK allows you to have a colour which will come out reasonably consistently on a variety of different print mediums. A gloss or matte finish may change the tone of the colour, but that CMYK colour is going to be a close to the last item printed as possible.

Like RGB, CMYK can also look different depending on what kind of digital display is used for viewing, however if you have brand CMYK values, it will produce the most consistent end result when printed, without looking too much into the material properties. Material properties is a whole other conversation, but we will guide you through all that.