rgb vs cmyk

RGB vs CMYK – What they are and when to use them?


Dealing with any images, you will inevitably be put in a position where the terms “RGB” and “CMYK” are discussed. Naturally, we don’t want to look lost and confused. It’s always a good idea to get the differences between the two, even if you don’t intend to be a prominent web designer or photographer. Plus, it’s really so simple, that it would be weird not knowing it.

RGB and CMYK are both color models…and this is pretty much all they have in common. So in order to get a full grasp of their value, let’s make a simple comparison of some of their key factors.


cmyk-vs-rgbRGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, and is an additive color model. You get the white color by overlaying the 3 main colors, basically emitting light. This is why RGB is a preferred color model with all monitors, TV screens, cameras, scanners and other digital devices.

CMYK is the abbreviation of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. But why is black abbreviated with a K, right? Fun fact is that was kept from back in the early days of printing, where the black plate was called “key” due to its importance for printing details. The CMYK model is substractive so, contrary to RGB, when all colors are overlayed – you get black. You get the white color by removing the other colors one by one. Colors in the CMYK model are absorbing light, which makes them perfect for paper, vinyl and any kind of printable surface


Due to their nature, the two color models are suitable for completely different purposes. If you are looking for an image that will be used in web – then RGB is the way to go. If your design is going on a business card, brochure or anything printed – make sure to choose CMYK. There is another very good reason for that – RGB covers a much wider range of colors for best precision and maximum quality. Printing machines, on the other hand, operate in CMYK and this results in some loss of the brightest colors. This is why most print shops require that you give them designs in CMYK. Even though some printers can make the RGB-CMYK conversion, it’s always best that you make it yourself so you can be sure what end result to expect.

Next time you see a brochure with dull and faded colors, you will know what’s going on and that someone hasn’t learned their RGB and CMYK lesson. Good thing this will never be you as PrintGround can not only offer you top quality printing services, but also consult you on the best way to achieve your goal.

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