As web and graphic designers, it is absolutely crucial to know what the difference is between RGB and CMYK colour spectrums and be able to choose when to use which for a specific project. What it comes down to is this: use RGB for web designs and use CMYK for print designs. Why? Because computer monitors emit light while print materials absorb/reflect light.
Let’s take a look at the RGB colour model, which has additive colours. The “R” stands for Red, “G” for Green and “B” for Blue. On a computer monitor, RGB light is emitted. The reason why RGB colours are additive is because all designs start off with no colour (black), and colours are added together to achieve further colours. As a result, when our eyes receive no reflected light, we perceive the design on the monitor to be black. However, when you add portions of red, green and blue, you get a wide range of colours, with a combination of all colours (red, green and blue) giving white. Even though all the colours of the visible spectrum can be produced by merging red, green and blue light, computer monitors are only able to display a limited colour gamut or range of colours from the visible spectrum.
The CMYK colour model employs the use of subtractive colours. The “C” stands for Cyan, the “M” for Magenta, the “Y” for Yellow and the “K” for Black. You can think of this as the opposite of RGB. Instead of light being emitted from a screen, you’re working with printed material that can either absorb or reflect light. As a result, the CMYK colours act as filters to filter out specific wavelengths of white light, allowing us to see different colours on the page. When all colours are used (CMY), we end up with K (black), because we have applied the most amount of filters at their maximum strength, meaning all of the white light will be filtered, with only black remaining (the absence of colour). Similar to the RGB colour model, the CMYK colour model only has a range of colours from the visible spectrum, but they are slightly off from the RGB model.
Due to the differences between RGB and CMYK, RGB is more suitable for web designs (based on emitted light), while CMYK is more suitable for print designs (based on absorbed light). There is a nice infographic available to help you decide which to use and when.
The team at CryoDragon are experts in both web and print design, and we make sure your artwork is optimized to your application. If you’re working on a brochure or promotional print material, we will work with a CMYK colour gamut, and if you need website graphics or websites designed, we are specialists in RGB colour use as well. Contact us for a free quote today!