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  • Writer's pictureRhys

What is the difference between CMYK and RGB?

If you’ve ever done any graphic design work or received a design from a designer, you’ll likely have come across the acronyms RGB and CMYK at some point.

But what do they mean, and why do you need to be familiar with them?

RGB and CMYK are the two most common colour models.

RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue, and is recognised as the primary colour model in most design fields, making it perfect for the web and digital media.

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK, and is better suited for print media.

Simple, right?

Well, it can get a little complicated if you get the two confused. For example, if you create a design mock-up using RGB, but you try to print it, you’ll likely end up with the wrong colours.

But how can the colours change?

They don’t. It’s all about your eyes.

RGB colours are specifically designed for any type of media that emits light, like your computer or tablet screen, a digital billboard or TV, etc.

If you zoom in really closely on an RGB design on your computer, you’ll see that each pixel is red, green and blue, but the white light emitted from the screen causes these colours to blend and creates a much wider range of colours seen by your eyes. The more light emitted, the whiter the colours appear, the less light, the darker they appear.

CMYK behaves in the opposite way by subtracting colours from natural white light and converting them into pigments or dyes, and then spreading them out or putting them closer together to create different colours.

So, while they’re both important, you can’t use the same colour model across all types of media. So, be conscious when mocking up your next design, or when speaking to your designer about which colour model you need for your final design.

When in doubt, remember that RGB is best suited to any media viewed on a screen and CMYK is the standard choice for all print media.

Need help with graphic design?

We can create impactful graphics with a full range of typefaces, graphics, drawings, logos and any other elements to produce the final design. To discuss this or any of our other services, you can contact us on (0191) 482 5042 or email us at

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