The REAL Difference Between RGB and CMYK and Why You Should Care
If you’ve found your way to this blog post then you’ve probably run into a situation where either someone or some website has asked you to change your image from RGB to CMYK or vise versa. It’s annoying we know … but there is a reason behind why this is important, and we’re going to break that down for you right here and now!
The Basic Differences
Let’s start with the basics. RGB and CMYK are both known as two different color modes. This means that both of them use a different set of colors to blend and display for all of your photos and graphics. RGB and CMYK actually stand for the exact colors they use for all of this blending! Although this may seem like just a fun fact this is actually important to know so that you can understand their differences! RGB stands for the colors Red, Green, and Blue while CMYK stands for the colors Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (which actually just means Black). These colors are the ONLY ones being used to create every color variation and shade you see within your design or picture. Crazy, right?!
For example, each color you see in your image is actually just a combination of either Red, Green, Blue or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. It’s because of this that these color modes can create some very different results.
Where to Use Which One?
Ok, so you know what the letters stand for now and why the names are the way they are. So what? Why does there have to be two of these things in the first place? The reason is actually very simple when you get down to it.
When you want to post a picture online you generally want the colors to come out crisp, clear, and vibrant so that as much detail as possible can translate through the screen and to the viewers. It’s because of this that RGB is the best color mode to use. Why? Because RGB’s colors are always extremely high in saturation. This means that for example you will always get the brightest red possible and not a muddy or faded looking red. RGB is also the preferred color preferences of browsers because of this. You may have noticed before an image you’ve posted online displayed overly saturated or just flat out incorrect colors all together. The reason behind this is that most likely your image was using CMYK instead of RGB for its color mode.
If RGB colors are so great and vibrant you might be wondering why it just isn’t used for everything. While RGB is great for online use it is actually very limited when it comes to print and creating different tints or hues of colors. This means that if you in fact wanted a more moss green or brownish red you’re going to struggle getting just that right color shade and balance in RGB. This is where CMYK really shines.
While it isn’t great to use online, CMYK is actually the preferred and most commonly used color mode for print! Most printers both small and large use CMYK to create all of those flyers, posters, and business cards you have made. With it’s great ability of creating soft transitional tints of various colors, CMYK really should be your go-to color mode for anything print related.
What You Learned
We’ve gone over a lot of quick details for the color modes RGB and CMYK! What are the key take aways though?
- Great for digital use!
- The preferred color mode for online platforms and websites.
- Has very saturated (bright/clear) colors.
- Your best option for print collateral!
- The preferred color mode for most printers.
- Has a great range for creating different tints and values in colors.