What is the difference between RGB and CMYK?

While this is a bit of a technical post, we come across so many people who don’t quite grasp the difference between RGB and CMYK. We don’t mind if you don’t understand because we can manage it all for you, but some people like to know all about it so we thought to dedicate a post about RGB and CMYK.

RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue. RGB is the type of colour breakdown used on screens that transmit light – whether it’s your computer, TV or any other type of colour monitor. Websites use RGB colours.

RGB colours often appear brighter than CMYK colours because the monitor allows for neon colours that aren’t possible in CMYK. This means if you’ve got artwork that’s only been created using RGB colours, it can look very different when printed due to printing as CMYK.

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (key). Black is a bit special being called “key”, but that’s been derived from black being on the “key” plate when doing offset printing (in other words, the plate that does all of the detail printing, especially prevalent for books and documents with a lot of text).

CMYK are the colour inks used in printing. You may already be familiar with these colour when you’ve changed ink in your home or office printer – and a professional press is no different, just a lot bigger!

The easiest way to remember the difference:
RGB = on the computer screen.
CMYK = printed onto paper.