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September 21, 2020
June 1, 2023

A Detailed Look at Packaging Artwork Colors & Their Impact on Branding


A Detailed Look at Packaging Artwork Colors & Their Impact on Branding

September 21, 2020
June 1, 2023


Product packaging is part of your branding. When you launch a new product or market it to a different region, you have to make sure the artwork clearly reflects your brand’s messaging and covers important information.

But packaging artwork design and approval are tedious, time-consuming processes. They involve multiple rounds of revisions and proofing across different departments. Every aspect of the artwork has to be checked and especially the colors.

The Anatomy Of Artwork Colors

The colors used in packaging artwork add a visual identity to your brand. Cadbury’s distinct purple color or McDonald’s red and yellow, clearly reflect the brand even when there’s no text used.

It’s the shade, tone, tint, that dictate the right colors. The use of exact colors indicates authenticity and improves brand recall. They give your brand, a uniqueness factor. But before deciding on the eventual colors for your artwork, you must first decide on a color system.

Color Systems For Packaging Artwork

Color systems help standardize the shades of colors being used. For packaging colors, the systems used are either Pantone or CMYK.

packaging artwork colors
Packaging system

1. Pantone

Pantone Matching System (PMS) or simply Pantone is a standard color reproduction system. It identifies a color with an allotted code (e.g. 130 C).

packaging colos

Pantone Matching System dictates 1867 unique colours and 13 basic colours which can be used to create any colour. Pantone Inc releases a guide annually for designers and brands, allowing them to use accurate colour codes. Printers, design agencies, packaging manufacturers, and brands can use this Pantone guide as a reference when using colours.


CMYK colour scheme is a process of printing using a combination of four base colours- cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black) also known as spot colours. Most packaging printing methods like offset, flexography, digital, screen, or rotogravure, use the CMYK configuration for commercial purposes as developing colours in CMYK is simple and cost-effective.

packaging impact on branding

Colours can be generated as solid or spot colours or process colours. Spot colours are colours generated by ink which is printed using a single run. Whereas, process colours are printed using a series of dots.

Pantone uses 13 spot colours for formulating the rest of the colours. At the same time, CMYK uses four spot colours for generating multiple blends of colours.

When To Use Pantone And CMYK?

Use Pantone or Spot Colour:

  • If you’re using 1- or 2-flexography press
  • For colour accuracy and consistency
  • For fluorescent or metallic ink effects


  • If artwork requires 3 or more colours
  • When accuracy is not a concern
  • If you’re on a budget
  • For digital printing for corrugated boxes or cartons

Pantone and CMYK are globally accepted standards and are essential in selecting the right colours for your packaging design. But choosing the most suitable colour system depends on what your needs are, your brand’s packaging material, and consistency requirements.

1. Colour Consistency

Colours directly impact brand recall. For products that are globally manufactured, brands opt to use the Pantone colour scheme as it is more consistent as compared to CMYK.

2. Packaging Material

For printing on fabric pouches and colouring plastic containers, Pantone is suitable because it usually comprises a single colour. To print packaging artwork on kraft papers using two or three colours, you could opt for either Pantone or CMYK.

3. Cost-Effectiveness

Brands with budget constraints or those that have a local presence tend to use CMYK scheme as it’s cheaper. Large enterprises or established brands prefer to use CMYK for pre-press proofing. Such businesses invest in customizing colours from the Pantone guide and using them for branding purposes.

Using The Right Colours In Artwork Design

When it comes to printing on product packaging, you can use various materials and inks. The easiest thing to do, of course, is to pick colours from existing artwork and simply replicate them.

This can be done in 3 different ways:

  • Graphic Design Tools: Softwares like Illustrator, Photoshop, etc. have inbuilt tools to find colours and convert them into RGB, CMYK, or Pantone.
  • Conversion Charts: Pantone provides a conversion chart to find the equivalent CMYK colour codes and vice versa.
  • Colour Extractors: Artwork colour extractors or colour pickers use PDF, JPEG, PNG, or JPG files to produce the colours in Pantone, CMYK, and/or RGB notations. Colour extractors are advanced tools which can be used to present prototypes of the final packaging print.

To avoid delays in the product’s time-to-market, brands have to be careful of any errors in packaging artwork colours. Hence, once you’ve identified the colour codes, it is always a good idea to colour-proof your packaging before bulk printing.

Brands can create print-ready artwork files with an online colour extractor tool which shows all colours specifications present in any artwork.

How Can An Artwork Colour Extractor Tool Help

Artwork Colour Extractor is an online tool for extracting colours in Pantone, CMYK and RGB configurations. It helps you put together a print-ready file for prepress proofing.

packaging artwork color

Packaging Artwork Colour Extractor Tool

Thus, helping you:

  • Get an idea of the final look and feel of colours on your packaging.
  • Allow multiple trials using different materials and print methods at a negligible cost
  • Save expenses by discarding a batch of inadequately printed packaging

Move Ahead With Confidence

Colours in packaging artworks reflect the brand’s personality. Reproducing the exact colours and maintaining consistency across different selling channels helps retain brand identity and adds a layer of professionalism.

Today, proofing artwork colours doesn’t have to be a time-taking manual process. When you use a colour proofing tool, you accelerate the artwork approval process and stay clear of any guesswork. Using the right tools helps you improve proofing accuracy and decrease your product’s turn-around-time.

If you think your brand needs a colour proofing tool, you can check out our free artwork colour checking tool right away. We’re here to help.

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