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RGB vs CMKY - Which Is The Right Mode For You?




Working with an online image and what is actually printed can be tricky; learning how colours work is the key to a successful image. The two basic colour spaces, or modes, that you’ll most often encounter are RGB and CMYK; but what colour mode is the right one for you?

During the period of press printing, to achieve colours, each ink had its own plate; black, cyan, magenta, and yellow. The printer would press one colour at a time and wait for it to dry before pressing the next colour. This method is still used to this day, with the exception that printers can use what’s called “spot” colour; which is used to achieve a specific colour swatch (usually a pantone colour).

Computers are completely different; the monitor gives off coloured light, known as RGB. They have a larger gamut than printing, which is why the display has a million more colours than what can be achieved with printing.

Printing deals with absorptions and reflection of wavelengths of which we perceive as colour (C , M, Y, & K), and also has a limited colour gamut; therefore what is displayed on a screen will not be entirely the same on the page.

What is RBG & CMYK?

RGB Colours

RBG colours are also known as additive colours because there are no colours and the colours are being added together to create different colours, or until the outcome is white. This is due to our eyes perceiving colour as black, as they do not receive reflected light.

However; adding portions of red, green, & blue, which result in CMYK colours.


CMYK Colours


CMYK colours are also known as subtractive colours; when the colours are subtracted the outcome is white, this is due to the colours absorbing the light.

Throughout the years printing has progressed and enhanced, allowing printing in RGB, but the standard is still the same; use CMYK for printing, as the colour will appear differently if printed in RGB.

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  • Kaitlin C.