CMYK and RGB are the main models that are used to create colours, but both work very differently to one another. Knowing the difference between CMYK and RGB is hugely important, as, depending on the purpose, one is always better than the other.
It is very easy to make the mistake of thinking that anything you design will look the same in print as it does on screen. However, professional printers will convert all RGB files to CMYK, and this can result in a change of colour. It is important to ensure you create any design files in the correct colour mode from the start, to prevent any loss of quality further down the line.
What is RGB?
RGB refers to the primary colours Red, Green and Blue. This colour mode uses the primary colours to form all other colours by combining different quantities of red, green and blue. It is an additive mode which means that when you fully combine all of the colours, you end up with the colour white.
RGB colour mode is for digital use and should only be chosen when a design is meant to be displayed on a screen. The pixels of a screen are comprised of three lights: one for red, one for green and one for blue. The RGB values are applied to these pixels and this sets the luminosity of each of the lights per pixel.
What is CMYK?
The name CMYK comes from the four colours that make up the model – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). CMYK uses subtractive colours, not additive. It has the opposite effect as RGB does; the more colour is added then the darker the results. Therefore, lighter results are created by subtracting colours.
CMYK is used for any project that requires physical printing. This is because the physical reality of printing requires CMYK inks, as it is the only way to create a continuous spectrum of colours with printed media.
What is the difference between RGB and CMYK?
To put it simply, CMYK is intended to be used for printing with ink, whereas RGB is intended for screen displays. The two modes have different ranges of colour, with RGB providing a much wider array of possibilities. CMYK has a numerical range of 4×100, while RGB has a numerical range of 3×256. Therefore, some of the colours that RGB can produce are difficult to reproduce in CMYK.
Your printed design can look very different if you convert RGB to CMYK, as colours may appear faded. It is always advised that printed files are created in CMYK mode, to ensure your design retains the original quality it was made with.
Here at Morgans Consult, we print all designs in CMYK, which means that any provided artwork is converted into this mode. This can result in the colour changing slightly if the file is RGB, which can change the appearance of your design. We have a team of design experts on hand to offer further advice and guidance with selecting the right colour mode.