CMYK vs RGB… In the Print World, CMYK Wins Every Time

CMYK color mode wins in the print industry every time.

CMYK and RGB are acronyms that refer to color models used to create images and files. CMYK color mode is used for printing. RGB (not to be confused with Cleveland Browns quarterback RG3) color mode is used to display images that are intended to be viewed on monitors and screens only. CMYK stands for Cyan, […]

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CMYK and RGB are acronyms that refer to color models used to create images and files. CMYK color mode is used for printing. RGB (not to be confused with Cleveland Browns quarterback RG3) color mode is used to display images that are intended to be viewed on monitors and screens only.

CMYK color model used for 4 color process printing.CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. These four basic ink colors are combined together in varying amounts to create a wide variety of colors for printing. You should always request a CMYK copy of your logo or any other file that you would like to have printed from your Graphic Designer. The above Blissful Bicycle logo and marketing materials look as though they were just printed with blue ink; in actuality, the blue color is made up of 55% Cyan ink and 22% Magenta ink. When the two color values are combined for printing, the above blue is the result. RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. These colors are actually lights that are mixed to create and display digital images on screens and electronic devices. RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. These colors are actually lights that are mixed to create and display digital images on screens and electronic devices. Images created using RGB color mode are able to display very vibrantly, but those bright neon colors are not able to be reproduced using CMYK inks.

When you try to print files that are intended to be viewed digitally on a screen, the print color outcome will be much different than what appears on your screen. Here is an example of what an RGB file looks like on screen in comparison to how it looks when converted to CMYK for printing.

What RGB color values look like when converted to CMYK for printing.

If your file is going to be printed, it needs to be set up in CMYK color mode. How can you make sure your file is set up in CMYK? Below are the steps to check your print files using popular Adobe design software. 

Adobe Photoshop – Image > Mode > CMYK Color
Adobe Illustrator – File > Document Color Mode > CMYK Color
Adobe InDesign – File > Document Setup > Intent: Print

Jen Johnson

Jen is the Brand Manager at Printsocial. She's responsible for our brand development and strategy as well as executing marketing campaigns. She's an avid fan of the Carolina Panthers, craft beer, yoga, and good design.