RGB and CMYK Color Modes

Photo by Gabriel Bassino on Unsplash

As a graphic designer, it is probably a good idea to know and understand the difference between RGB and CMYK color modes and when to use them. It’s actually extremely important  to know what these are when designing so there shouldn’t be any actual designer reading this aside from beginners. These color modes are what are used to display your artwork.

RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue and is an additive model. This means that you are adding and mixing light, in this case red, green, and blue light. This combination creates a pure white. RGB can combine and produce any color. RGB is used by computer screens, cell phones, TV screens and any other kind of light source. As a designer, when you are finalizing your work, you should always make sure you were designing in RGB color mode if you are going to display your work on a computer screen or any other digital device. When creating a new file for Photoshop or Illustrator, be sure to have the proper settings by selecting “Web” in the preset drop down option and having a DPI of 72.

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black). CMYK is the color mode to always used when you have to print something. For example, CMYK is used when you need to print posters, brochures, business cards, books, or magazines. Since you can’t print out light, CMYK uses ink colors. This is why this color mode is a subtractive model. Instead of adding light to achieve a color, CMYK uses ink to subtract brightness from white. These four colors can be mixed in various ways to produce thousands of hues and shades on paper. Unlike RGB, mixing CMYK colors together would produce darker colors instead of lighter colors. Besides being on this color mode to print, the image resolution is just as important. While computer screens us 72 DPI, printers need at least 300 DPI to show the image in the same size and quality. When creating a new file for Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign select “Print” in the new file drop down.

Overall, just be sure to be on the correct color mode when designing your artwork, otherwise your final work will come out completely different from how you wanted it to look.


What’s the difference between RGB and CMYK color modes?

Correct file formats: RGB and CMYK