No other segment of label print production is more prone to “shop speak” than colour matching. Pantone, CMYK, Delta E, 7-colour… the jargon can be dizzying and, at Jet Label, we’re all about simplicity and customer transparency.

You shouldn’t have to learn another language to understand the various ways in which Jet Label ensures vibrant, perfectly-matched colours for your product labels. Following is an explanation of some common colour printing industry terms.


Pantone Matching System: No glossary of terms can be fully useful without understanding this one, so we’re temporarily foregoing alphabetical order. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is the most popular industry process for ensuring accuracy in colour printing. It essentially objectifies a very subjective issue: our colour vision.

PMS gives names and numbers to colours and shades, eliminating our imperfect eyesight from the task of matching brand colours on various substrates. Many PANTONE Colours can be reproduced by mixing CMYK inks, while others require customized pre-mixed inks.

CMYK: Also known as “four-colour,” CMYK refers to the four inks widely used in colour printing: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). The “K” stands for key because, in four-colour printing, cyan, magenta, and yellow printing plates are carefully keyed, or aligned, with the key of the black key plate. Though CMYK uses just four base colours, it can create a wide variety of hues – reds, greens, blues, etc. – by standard blending techniques.

Delta E: In the colour matching process, Delta E is a unit of measurement revealing one shade’s difference from another – especially a master file or prototype’s colour variance from the intended brand colour. Generally speaking, once shades are within two of these units (Delta E < 2), they are indistinguishable by the unaided human eye.

Key Plate: Think of the key plate as the “detail provider.” When printing colour images by combining multiple colours of inks, the coloured inks usually don’t contain much image detail. Typically impressed using black ink, the key plate provides lines and contrasts for your label’s images.

7-Colour Printing: Also known by the acronym CMYKOVG, this ultra-exacting printing method adds Orange, Violet and Green to the original CMYK colour. Adding these additional hues to the printing colour spectrum allows us to match upwards of 97% Pantone colours to the naked eye.

7-Colour printing can help avoid the need to create costly custom-blend inks to match a shade unattainable through standard four-colour printing. This being the case, the process can end up saving customers money in the long run.

Spot Colour: Also called a solid colour, a spot colour is any colour generated by an ink (pure or mixed) printed using a single run, whereas a process colour is produced by printing a series of dots of different colours. Often, this term refers to a colour created through custom blending – i.e. one outside the spectrum achievable by standard mixing in four-colour printing.