The Difference between RGB and CMYK - In a Nutshell

Easily understood information in small doses, so you can get the info you need and move on with your day.

The Difference between RGB and CMYK - In a Nutshell.

For a much more detailed explanation of these colorspaces and color in general click here.

Or, to learn about all our color measuring tools at the studio - click here.

A colorspace is a way that computers can use math to describe a range of colors within an image. The two most popular colorspaces are CMYK and RGB - however there are more.

What is RGB?

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue. If you are showing an image on any type of screen (such as Phone, TV, Computer Monitor, etc...) you should make sure your image is RGB. RGB typically has more vibrant colors and is able to display more colors than CMYK.

RGB is known as an additive model. The colors are added together to make up what you see on the screen. Pixels on a screen are one of those three colors. Light is projected through the pixels blending the colors on the eye's retina to create the desired colors.

What is CMYK?

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. These are the main color inks used in commercial printing processes. If you are printing your image, typically it needs to be in the CMYK colorspace. There are exceptions based on specific printing processes, but you will typically be safe with CMYK for any printing. Certain RGB colors that you can see on your monitor simply cannot be replicated with standard CMYK inks. These colors are said to "out of gamut."

CMYK is known as a subtractive model. Basically, a printer uses inks to absorb some wavelengths of light and not others. The color that will display depends on which parts of the visible spectrum are not absorbed and therefore remain visible.

Do you have any more questions about CMYK, RGB, or color? Let us know and we may address your question in a future blog (we probably will).