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RGB vs CMYK? Get To Know The Difference Here So You Don’t Get Disappointed!

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Understanding the difference between RGB and CMYK is an important component in the world of graphic design. The limitation in terms of coloring makes the print result not optimal. This problem often occurs in the graphic world when designs made using design software will be continued into the printing production process.

Designs that already look attractive on the screen are useless if the graphic designer is weak in knowledge of the production process so that the results that appear when printed become less attractive. Many factors can cause such an error, but the most common case is due to coloring in the design.

Coloring with RGB and CMYK has similarities and differences that must be understood so that there are no errors in the printing process. The colors seen on the computer monitor screen are different from the prints in the printing world because they use 2 different coloring models, RGB screens and CMYK printing. This difference causes one to wonder why the printout is different from the colors found in the design.

As a business owner, this article is best for your graphic designer team, or if you’re all-in-one CEO, you can learn about this so your printing will get the best result.

What is RGB and CMYK

Before making a design, understand the following differences between RGB and CMYK:

What is CMYK

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. The combination of 4 CMYK colors produces some colors from RGB. The combination of Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow colors will produce Black. The use of CMYK (subtractive color) colors to appear balanced against a white background like paper printing materials. The CMYK color model is more suitable for saving using a file type with the Jpeg format.

The CMYK color model has become the standard in digital printing, offset printing, rotogravure, lithography, letterpress to conventional printing techniques such as screen printing. Therefore, to print with good quality, a minimum of 4 types of ink are required with Cyan, Magenta Yellow and Black colors.

What is RGB

RGB is a color consisting of Red, Green, and Blue. The results of these three colors will produce a higher level of brightness than CMYK colors. RGB color (additive color) is a color that aims to present images visually on electronic equipment such as televisions, projectors, and computer monitors. The screen on the monitor uses the RGB color model because the computer monitor displays a black background. So, the colors Red, Green, and Blue serve to share the intensity of light to brighten the dark background color (black).


When to Use CMYK

Always use CMYK for any projects that will be printed, not viewed on a screen. Below are the use cases list of using CMYK:

  1. branding, such as business cards, stationary, stickers, signs and storefronts
  2. advertising, such as billboards, posters, flyers, vehicle wraps
  3. merchandise, such as t-shirts, hats, promotional items and other branded clothing
  4. essential items, such as product packaging, restaurant menu, etcs.

When to Use RGB

Use RGB when the final project goal is to be viewed on digital screen (anything the involces computers, smartphones, tables, etc).

  1. web & app design
  2. branding, such as logos for social medias, or ads
  3. social medias, image posts, and stories
  4. visual contents, infographics, photography, digital graphics, video

How To Check The Color Mode

If you already made the design and have no idea or forget what mode you set your design document or if you are working with someone else’s file, then this is how to check whether the file is in CMYK or RGB.

You can use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. In this article we will share how to check the color mode on both apps.

Check Color Mode in Photoshop

Credit: 99 designs

You can go to Image -> Mode and see the file’s color mode will have a checkmark.

Check Color Mode in Illustrator

You can also find it by navigating to File > Document Color Mode. The document’s color mode will have a checkmark next to it.


If you are still having a headache figuring this out, a good printing company will accompany you with this. Even if you already setup your document in RGB and then want it to be printed or convert to CMYK (vice versa).

But next time when you create your own design, this guide will be helpful for you.

Just say hi and our team will be happy to assist you! Free quotes and free consultation on any projects!

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