Difference between CMYK and RGB Colours

September 29, 2022

You may have heard the terms ‘RGB and CMYK’ before, but do you know what they actually stand for, and how they can be used? Well let me shed some insight! RGB, which stands for red, green, and blue is used to display anything on a monitor or screen (such as videos on a website). As a screen is made up of pixels, what you see is made up of red, green, and blue subpixels which when  combined, form the shade of white that you currently see displayed on your devices. This concept is known as the ‘Additive Colour Model’. CMYK on the other hand, which stands for ‘Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key) is created by using a white surface, where layers of colour are then applied  to the surface to subtract from the already existing white. This is why it is known as the ‘Subtractive Colour Model’.

RGB is used typically for display purposes on a screen, as it is used to display the colours that are made up of pixels. Whereas CMYK is used for printing, as these are the colours that will end up being layered onto your white digital printing surface. It is important to remember that when displaying colours on a screen in RGB format, they may differ in shade or colour when you go to print out your document, due to these pigment variations. Although some screens allow for CMYK viewings, it is important to note that not all colours can be reproduced, such as metallics or fluorescent colours like they would be when printed using the CMYK colour formats.

An image showing these models can be found below for a clearer depiction: