RBG and CMY¿qué?

Article Topic(s): Graphic Design, Print

Even though we can design you beautiful artwork, occasionally you will have the design ready to go and you’ll simply want us to print it for you. Brilliant! One of the first things we will ask is that you supply your file in CMYK.

This is when you will probably fall into one of these 3 categories:
1 – You know what CMYK is and you’ve created your file in this colour mode. You’re a hero.
2 – You are aware of CMYK but you don’t know why it matters (or how to change it).
3 – You don’t know what CMYK is and you are now very confused.

Well! We thought it would be good to give you a handy little explanation. Which should save you a bit of time and help you with any colour issues you may come across.

Red Green Blue

This is the colour mode used for your screen. Anything digital. If you want to view something on your website, Facebook or even your phone, you are going to want it to be set to RGB.

Cyan Magenta Yellow Black

This is one of the colour modes that is used for print. It is what we use and it is what most standard ‘at home’ printers use. So anything that you want to be printed out, needs to be CMYK.

What’s the difference?

You need to look at where the colour is going. Start with your screen. When it is off, the screen is black. This means the starting colour is black, your screen blends the three colours, red, green and blue in each pixel in order to create the colours that you see. If you were to use 100% red, green and blue, you would achieve white. The light in the pixels helps to achieve a much brighter colour than you could ever achieve by printing on paper.

But when you print, your starting colour is white (to make this easier we will assume that you are using white paper) which means that any colour you add will be going on top of the white. So the higher levels of colour you use, the darker it will get. The opposite of how your screen colour works…


Take a look at this logo. It is saved in RGB and ready for web view. But if you have the same image saved as CMYK when you try to post it on your website, you will probably find that the colours look very odd and much brighter than you would expect them to be…

Your computer will try and convert the colours to what it thinks it should be, because the colour profile doesn’t match the screen, but it doesn’t do this very well. The opposite happens when it comes to printing. As the print colours can not match the brightness that you can achieve on screen, it seriously mutes the colours as it tries to find a colour that it thinks replicates the one you have used.

When starting a project in Photoshop or Illustrator, it will give you the option to select your colour profile. If you have a file that has been set up in the wrong colour profile and you would like to amend it, you can do so quite easily in Photoshop.

Open file > Edit > Convert to Profile > Then select either RBG or CMYK

Boom. Done.

You will notice the difference the colour mode can make to your file by switching between the two modes.  This will also give you an idea of how an RGB image would print if it wasn’t converted correctly first.

Hopefully, this will come in handy! You’re welcome.

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