CMYK versus RGB…what exactly is the difference?

CMYK versus RGB…what exactly is the difference?

art in brooklyn

I absolutely love bright pops of unexpected colour, so when I was walking through Brooklyn in 2018, and saw this amazing art on the walls I knew I had to take a picture of it because I’d find some way to use this. And I did!

What’s RGB?

Both CMYK and RGB are colour modes. Depending on where your design or image will be used, will determine which colour mode you use.

RGB stands for red, green and blue, and if you’re designing something that’s going to be used on screen (think websites, social media, apps etc) then you’ll need to make sure you colour profile is set to RGB.

Light mixes these three primary colours together to create the spectrum that you see on screen. Colours start off as black and RGB is added on top of each other; the more colour that’s added the lighter everything becomes. RGB in equal values creates white – this is called additive mixing!

What file formats work best with RGB?

JPEGS and PNGS tend to work really well in this colour space. The actual file size stays small, and they work almost anywhere! Just make sure they’re set up at the right resolution for use on screen (72dpi).

What’s CMYK?

CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black), and If you’re designing for print (brochures, leaflets, stationery etc) you’ll want to make sure your colour profile is set to CMYK.

Actual physical inks (usually Pantones) are mixed together to create the colours that you see on that beautiful brochure you picked up the other day. Everything starts off as white and the more ink layers that are added, the darker the colour becomes. When all of the colours are mixed, you get black – and this called subtractive mixing!

What file formats work best with CMYK?

PDF and AI/EPS files work really best in this colour space – but when you’re producing something for print it’s always best to speak to your print supplier if you need any advice!

The one essential thing to keep in mind is that certain RGB colours can’t be replicated in the CMYK colour space, and you’re more likely to notice this on solid backgrounds rather than photographs.

A lot of people wonder why their printed product doesn’t look quite as bright as the proof that they looked at on their phone or computer – and it’s because of the different colour spaces. This is something I always advise clients of.