RGB vs CMYK : Color System Guide And Difference


RGB stands for Red, Blue, Green. These are primary colors of light which are used in television, Monitors, screens, Scanners, and Digital cameras . CMYK color mode means for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and black. These are the primary color of pigment. Combining RGB colors creates white, while combining CMYK ink creates black. It’s mandatory to understand and learn the difference between RGB and CMYK color modes so you can revamp each stage of the design process.

What is the difference between RGB vs CMYK?


Major difference between RGB and CMYK is that RGB is the primary color of light which creates white color when combined and it’s used for designing digital communication. CMYK is based on ink and creates black color when combined. Exporting in RGB is preferred as it will give you close results to what you see on your monitor and it’s used for designing print communication such as posters and business cards. If you are captivated in learning more about why these differences matter, keep reading on.

What is RGB color mode?

what is RGB?

RGB is all about light. Our computer screens display images with hundreds of pixels. Each pixel has three sub-pixels: a green light, blue light and red light. These three sub-pixels light up in different intensities based on color. The pixel ultimately displays to generate a result on screen. RGB values are showcased in between 0 to 255, it means there are 255 levels of each of the three colors (red,green and blue). These colors create a color on the range between black and white. There are over 16 million possibilities of colors in the RGB color mode.

Let’s discuss some of the traditional and popular color examples that create other colors by adding quantities of red, green, and blue simultaneously.

RGB values :

RGB values for common colors

When to use RGB?

  • Digital Branding
    • Logo design, Ads design, etc.
  • Web & App Design
    • Icons, Buttons, Graphic Elements
  • Social Media
    • Posts Image, Profile Pictures, Cover Page
  • Digital Graphics
  • Video

What are the formats for RGB files?

  • JPG / JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
  • PNG (Portable Network Graphics)
  • GIF (Graphics Interchange Forma)
  • PSD (Photoshop Document)
  • SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)

What is CMYK color mode?

What is CMYK color mode?

CMYK comes from 4 colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key. CMYK uses subtractive colors. Combining CMYK colors has a reverse effect on the result as RGB does; the more color you add the darker the results will be. Therefore, to create a light result, colors are subtracted. Key(black) color is used because even if all the colors cyan, magenta, and yellow which are light colors cannot create fully black color when combined.CMYK values are measured in percentages.

CMYK colors can create different shades of black when combined correctly. Let’s discuss some of the shades of color black that we can create by combining CMYK colors.

shade of black color

Let’s discuss some of the traditional and popular color examples:

CMYK values for common colors

When to use CMYK?

  • Print Media Branding
    • Business cards, Stationary, Stickers, Signs Boards, etc.
  • Advertising
    • Flyers, Posters, Brochures, Vehicle Wraps, etc
  • Merchandise
    • T-Shirts, Caps, and other branded clothes
    • Promotional Items (Pens, Mugs, Pendrives, Keychains, etc.)
  • Essential Materials
    • Product Packaging
    • Menus of Restaurant

What are the formats for CMYK files?

  • Ai (Illustrator File)
  • EPS (Encapsulated PostScript.)
  • PDF (Portable Document Format)
  • CDR (Competency Demonstration Report)

Key differences RGB & CMYK

Key DifferenceRGBCMYK
What does it stand for?Red, Green, BlueCyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black
Used forDigitalPrint
Type AdditiveSubstractive
File FormatMust in RGBMust in CMYK
Accepted in print fileNoYes
What is it?Light (Display)Ink


As a designer, It’s very important to learn color psychology by learning RGB vs CMYK color system and picking color carefully for your project and get results as you intended.

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