Have you ever spent hours choosing the perfect colors for your project, only to be disappointed by what comes out of your printer?

Alexa Rose from Schitts Creek

Whether you’re an aspiring graphic designer or just love to create images for the web or print, understanding when to use RGB vs. CMYK color models can make the difference between perfection and disappointment.

Key differences between RBG & CMYK

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  • It’s named for the three primary colors of light (red, green, and blue) that blend together to create the spectrum of colors.

  • It’s an additive color model.

  • RGB values can be expressed in either decimals or hex codes.

  • Accepted file formats include JPEG, GIF, PNG, PSD etc.

Overlapping circles of red, green and blue

  • The more color beams that are emitted, the closer the color gets to white light. If no light beams are emitted, the color is black.

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  • It's used for displaying images on electronic media or digital screens, such as computer monitors, mobile phones, and TV.

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  • It’s named for the ink colors used by printers: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black).

  • It’s a subtractive color model.

  • CMYK values are expressed in percentages.

  • Accepted file formats include PDF, EPS, AI etc.

  • The less ink used, the closer the color gets to white (or the background color of the paper). The more ink used, the closer the color gets to black.

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  • It's used for projects that need physically printed designs such as for images or products.

Why Does it Matter?

If you’re into graphic design, you’ll likely be creating both digital and printed images. Both RGB and CMYK are color models that can be used for mixing color in graphic design.

Side by side comparison of rainbow of colors in RGB and CMYK

  • Converting from RGB to CMYK is recommended for printing or packaging-based design projects. But your colors may not be what you expect and some color correction might be needed to get the results closer to the original design.

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💡 Using the correct color model will ensure that the colors on the final project match the colors in your mock-up. Getting colors right the first time can save time and money.  Ticking clock and dollar sign

⚡ RBG or CMYK?

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A friend asks you to design some promotional materials for their band's upcoming show. You want to create both a social media post and a printed poster.

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Option A: RGB for both

Option B: CMYK for both

Option C: RGB for the poster & CMYK for social media

Option D: RGB for social media & CMYK for the poster


Which color model(s) should you use?

Take Action

Jake from Dubai Hustle

Here are some tips to make your next project picture perfect:


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