What’s the difference between CMYK & RGB?

Why does my print look different than my screen? What does CMYK stand for? What does RGB stand for? Why does it matter?

CMYK is used for print.

CMYK stands for Cyan Magenta Yellow & Black. They are the four basic colors used in printer inks and can mix to make nearly every color (they generally don’t print white). When ink is mixed to make a color, it uses the subtractive method. The more colors you combine, the less of each color you see. Paint works the same was as ink. If you mix several colors together, you end up with a muddy mess…or if you have enough pigment, it turns black.

RGB is used for digital/web.

RGB stands for Red Green Blue. These are the three basis colors of light used to mix colors on a screen (they do make white). When light is mixed to make a color, it uses the additive method and range from no light (black) to 100% light (white). Think about a prism. When white light shines through a prism, it gets broken apart to show a rainbow. So white light is when all the colors in the visible spectrum are present.

Why use each?

It’s best to use CMYK for print so your printer knows how much of each colored ink to mix to create the color you want. It’s also best to use RGB for digital publishing so your screen knows how to mix the light to create the color you want. Although an RGB document can be printed and look OKAY, most screens will really mess up a CMYK image.