2 minutes read. August 21st, 2019.


The CMYK colour mode is a four colour process used in printing. It works by layering different hues of cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black). This process is subtractive, which means that, as increasing amounts of each colour are added, everything becomes darker – the process subtracts from natural light.

When designing for print, the colours that you see on screen will appear differently to the end product. Because CMYK does not offer the same range of colours as RGB, the printed outcome will look slightly duller compared to what you see on screen.


RGB is only used by devices which generate light (think televisions, cameras and mobile phones, for example). RGB differs from CMYK in that it blends different hues of red, green and blue to create light – it is an additive process rather than a subtractive one. Combining RGB at full intensity produces white (rather than the black produced by a full-intensity combination of CMYK).

RGB colours build on the absence of black to create light in the form of the visible colours that we see. RGB offers a wider selection of colours and higher colour accuracy than CMYK. It’s still possible to print RGB images, although this is likely to cause colour discrepancies, so it’s best to ensure that they’ve been converted to CMYK beforehand.

That’s the gist of things, in layman’s terms. Fortunately, design programs can easily convert projects between CMYK and RGB, as well as advise us on the best CMYK settings for our desired method of printing. So, as long as you remember that RGB is for digital and CMYK is for print, you can rest assured that your project will look as intended... in terms of colour, that is!

Looking to design for print or digital? Get in touch with our team today.

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Paul Hough

Creative Director

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