The Difference in CMYK vs RGB Color Modes

You may have heard of the terms “CMYK” or “RGB” before whether or not you work in design or printing, but do you know why they’re so important? When it comes to printing, knowing what these terms mean and how they’re used can make or break your finished product. These color modes are important to not only the print industry but can change the way you look at default design settings and are crucial when it comes to sending files to print. Let us give you a basic run-down of each term and describe why they’re such a crucial aspect to consider!


“CMYK” is a color mode acronym for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key, with “Key” meaning black. When added together, these colors become darker, with all of them added together resulting in black. This setting is often used by professional printing companies, as many printers work in CMYK. CMYK is thus often used for work meant to be printed, whether it’s for ads, projects, or other casual use. CMYK is also something to consider using when designing a project mostly in grey tones since it contains the “Key” color black that can help you to control and distinguish the color.


“RGB,” on the other hand, is a color mode that represents Red, Green, and Blue. These three basic colors add together to become lighter, with all of them added together ultimately becoming white. This setting is widely used by all kinds of technology– computer screens, TVs, cameras, scanners, and more! This means most web design is made in RGB since screens are what the content is made for. Since RGB is so popular, it may come as no surprise that it’s also the default file setting for programs like Photoshop.


The problem between RGB and CMYK are their incompatibility together. When it comes to printing, this often becomes an issue when a work was designed in RGB but there is a print attempt in CMYK. The translation rarely comes out right, with noticeable differences in colors that can ruin a design. At AZ Litho, our print design experts are ready to not only help prevent this issue but to help you with any of your other design questions or problems! Contact us today!