CMYK vs RGB and What Is Best for Printing

Do you know the difference between CYMK vs RGB colors and how they are used?

Both color palettes are used for mixing to create virtually any other hue within the color spectrum. So, what’s the difference between CMYK vs RGB?

RBG Colors – Red, Green & Blue

These primary colors are best for digital work and are generally used for computer monitors, digital cameras, smart phones, scanners, TV screens, etc. RGB color mixing is an “ADDITIVE PROCESS.

The digital world starts from blackness and adds varying intensities of red, green and blue light to create the digital color image we see on the screen. As a designer, you will have full control to vary the degree of intensity, saturation and shading of the three primary colors to create the images you want. RGB colors are ideal if your images will only be displayed digitally. Common file formats might include jpeg and png images or animated, motion capture gifs.

Fun Fact

Did you know that when RGB color lights combine they make “White?”

When designing for digital mediums RGB colors are preferred and will help you avoid discrepancies with color profiles. In other words, if your images or design will exist in the virtual world such as on social media or for online advertising, RGB colors are best.

CYMK Colors – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black

The mixing of CYMK colors is a “SUBTRACTIVE PROCESS” that gives more accurate results than RGB. CMYK images are created by combining actual ink colors during the color printing process. In the print world the color process starts with “white.” Each layer of the 4 ink colors then serve to “reduce” the initial brightness in order to vary the hues and create the desired image.

The CMYK color model is universally used for commercial process printing of full color magazines and marketing materials like signage, brochures, posters, flyers, etc.  The best file formats for CYMK include PDFs, AI, and EPS.

Fun Fact

Did you know that when CYMK color lights combine they make “Black?”

Why RGB Must Be Converted for Printing

Can you use CMYK vs RGB colors for computer graphics? The answer is yes. With modern software programs like Adobe Illustrator, you can choose to work either with CYMK or RGB colors.

However, in order to do four colour printing at a commercial printer, your files that use RGB colors must first be converted over to CYMK colors. Why, you ask? That’s because, when printing, CYMK is best for true color reproduction since, with few exceptions, almost the entire color spectrum can be reproduced with just the four CYMK process ink colors.

Keep in mind that computer monitors use RGB colors. CYMK vs RGB colors on computer monitors may not always display the same. Also, RGB colors on your monitor won’t match the final printed product as well as CYMK colors. Therefore, you will have more control if you convert from RGB to CYMK before sending your files to the printers. This will help ensure the final colors are exactly what you want.

Most graphics and image editing programs today can easily convert from RGB to CYMK.

Why RGB Colors Can’t Always Be Reproduced in Print

We mentioned that the combination of RGB colors creates “WHITE” and the combination of CMYK creates “BLACK.” Also, not all computer monitors are calibrated exactly the same. This is why it is not physically possible to reproduce the RGB colors you see on the monitor when your images are commercially printed.

Our printing experts here at PRI Graphics can help you if there any concerns about reproducing specific colors. Ask us about how to create effective presentation visuals.

About PRI Graphics in Phoenix AZ

As a Phoenix printing company, PRI Graphics (Perkinson Reprographics) offers professional printing services not only to clients in Arizona but also all across America. Whether you need digital printing, large format graphics printing or sign printing, no job is too large or too small. We can print anything from postcards, brochures, and flyers to car wraps, construction signage, and commercial wall coverings.

If you still have questions about CYMK vs RGB, or if you would like more information about our printing company, please or call us toll free at 1-877-409-8889 or send us an email.

For in-house graphic design services, we can be reached locally at 602-393-3131.

You might also like our post on Digital vs Offset Printing.