CMYK colour charts and values

Colour is one of the most commonly misunderstood and error prone topics in all of printing. We've compiled these CMYK guides based on our experience to help you understand various aspects of how printed colour works and why it might be different from what you'd expect.

Reading these colour charts

Some colours are much more challenging to reproduce perfectly in print. The charts below contain a series of CMYK colours that are known to be reliable for offset printing.

While we cannot offer exact colour matching, we can recommend these relatively safe choices for your designs. Using these charts will help you achieve greater consistency in accurate colour reproduction.

The ‘base’ colour is displayed on the left of each row. As you progress to the right, the colour values decrease gradually. The lower rows in each chart show secondary colours.

Please note that your monitor settings may affect what you see on your screen vs. the finished product from a printer. Inkjet or laser printers may also produce varying results based on settings. If precise colour is vital to your project, we recommend that you purchase a proof of your print job to see exactly how it will look in print.

The CMYK colour model
The CMYK colour model

CMYK black

Standard black (the K in CMYK) is essentially made from shades of grey. How black the black looks is based on density, on a scale of 1 to 100.

Rich black is created by blending all of the CMYK colours, resulting in a more rich and saturated tone. Make sure not to over-saturate the paper by setting all colours to the 100 maximum. For best results, try some of the values shown in the chart below.

Remember, you should always be careful when using black to make the colours darker. It can easily make your colours appear muddy.

Read our black vs. rich black guide

Just black Rich black Just black Rich black

CMYK reds

Red can often appear orange or rusty when printing. When this happens, you need to look at your levels of magenta and yellow. If your red looks too pinkish, you have too much magenta in the mix. If you see a more orange tinge, that’s because the yellow value is too high.

Remember, you should always be careful when using black to make the colours darker. It can easily make your colours appear muddy.

CMYK Reds 1 CMYK Reds 2 CMYK Reds 3 CMYK Reds 4

CMYK oranges and browns

Getting a nice, bright orange is easy: it’s two parts yellow, one part magenta (0-50-100-0).
Changing the balance of these colours will produce mossy greens, a ruch rust colour, or earthy browns.

Remember, you should always be careful when using black to make the colours darker. It can easily make your colours appear muddy.

CMYK yellows and greens

Cyan and yellow combine to make lovely green colours. For the most vibrant results, use them in equal parts and make them dense.

Be careful when making yellow itself darker–it can easily become more of a mustard colour. In dense yellow mixtures, the finished colour can look more orange or green.

Remember, you should always be careful when using black to make the colours darker. It can easily make your colours appear muddy.

CMYK Oranges and Browns 1 CMYK Oranges and Browns 2 CMYK Oranges and Browns 3 CMYK Oranges and Browns 4 CMYK Oranges and Browns 7 CMYK Oranges and Browns 8

CMYK yellows and greens

Cyan and yellow will produce a lovely green colour. For the most vibrant results, put them in equal parts and make them dense. As for yellow itself, be careful when making it darker. It can easily become more of a sage or mustard colour. In dense mixtures, it can become more orange or green.

Remember, you should always be careful when using black to make the colours darker. It can easily make your colours appear muddy.

CMYK Yellows and Greens 1 CMYK Yellows and Greens 2 CMYK Yellows and Greens 3 CMYK Yellows and Greens 4 CMYK Yellows and Greens 5 CMYK Yellows and Greens 6 CMYK Yellows and Greens 7 CMYK Yellows and Greens 8 CMYK Yellows and Greens 9 CMYK Yellows and Greens 10 CMYK Yellows and Greens 11 CMYK Yellows and Greens 12

CMYK blues

In CMYK, blue is one of the most difficult colours to reproduce accurately. To get the colour you want, it’s best to use even and balanced mixtures, like 100-50-0-0. Otherwise, you’ll get more purple or green colours.

Remember, you should always be careful when using black to make the colours darker. It can easily make your colours appear muddy.

CMYK Blues 1 CMYK Blues 2 CMYK Blues 3 CMYK Blues 4 CMYK Blues 5 CMYK Blues 6 CMYK Blues 7 CMYK Blues 8

CMYK purples

Regal purple tones are CMYK friendly. A 3:2 magenta to cyan ratio is an excellent place to start (79-100-0-0).

Remember, you should always be careful when using black to make the colours darker. It can easily make your colours appear muddy.

CMYK Purples 1 CMYK Purples 2 CMYK Purples 3 CMYK Purples 4

CMYK pinks

Pinks in CMYK printing are all about the magenta. To make your pinks really pop, the magenta levels should be high, and the yellow, cyan, and black very low. If you put too much yellow in, you’ll get more red hues. Too much cyan, and it’ll turn purple.

Remember, you should always be careful when using black to make the colours darker. It can easily make your colours appear muddy.

CMYK Pinks 1 CMYK Pinks 2 CMYK Pinks 3 CMYK Pinks 4

CMYK golds

True metallic gold finish is not possible with CMYK printing, but a flat or NMM (non-metallic metal) representation of gold can be produced. Some examples are shown below.

If you want a true metallic finish, you will need to use a metallic Pantone spot ink to your design.
Foils are also available for some products.

Remember, you should always be careful when using black to make the colours darker. It can easily make your colours appear muddy.

CMYK Golds 1 CMYK Golds 2

CMYK silvers

Just like gold tones, a metallic silver finish is not possible with CMYK printing. Flat or NMM (non-metallic metal) colors are possible, and are shown in the chart below.

If you want a true metallic finish, you will need to use a metallic Pantone spot ink to your design.
Foils are also available for some products.

Remember, you should always be careful when using black to make the colours darker. It can easily make your colours appear muddy.

CMYK Silvers 1 CMYK Silvers 2

CMYK bright colours

Want your colours to really jump off the page? Although CMYK can never quite reach the backlit-brilliance of RGB colours, the colour mixes below will ensure the most vivid results for your printed products.

CMYK Bright Colors 1 CMYK Bright Colors 2

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