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FAQ: RGB vs CMYK

RGB vs CMYK, what exactly is it?

As a graphic designer, doing anything in color requires you to be at least somewhat familiar with the two most common color models: RGB (red, green, blue) and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). Understanding the RGB and CMYK difference is an essential part of successful graphic design. Here’s what you need to know.
What's the difference between RGB & CMYK?

Well, in short, both RGB vs CMYK are modes for mixing color in graphic design programs – RGB color mode is best for digital work (like Social Media posts, videos and website design), while CMYK is used for print products (like business cards and flyers).

RGB & CMYK
What is RGB?​

RGB (Red, Green and Blue) is the colour space for digital images. Use the RGB colour mode if your design is supposed to be displayed on any kind of screen. Designers can control aspects like saturation, vibrancy and shading by modifying any of the three source colours. Because it’s done digitally, the designer manipulates how the light on the screen manifests to create the colour they want.

When to use RGB?:
> Web & App Design: Icons, buttons and general graphics.
> Branding: Online logos or online ads.
> Social Media: Images for posts, profile pictures or profile backgrounds.
> Visual Content: Video, digital graphics, infographics or photos for website or social media.

File formats for RGB?​
> JPG
> PSD – Photoshop
> PNG
> GIF

It’s best to avoid TIFF, EPS, PDF and BMP for RGB purposes. These formats are not compatible with most software, not to mention they can be unnecessarily large in terms of data.

What is CMYK?
CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key/Black) is the color space for printed materials. A printing machine creates images by combining CMYK colors to varying degrees with physical ink. This is known as subtractive mixing. All colors start as blank white, and each layer of ink reduces the initial brightness to create the preferred color. When all colors are mixed together, they create pure black.
What design software should you use?

Although designing is always best left for the pro’s, if you do decide to design your own material, we highly recommend using the right software from the start. Programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Sketch are best used to create and manipulate vector images. Avoid raster-based programs such as Adobe Photoshop when incorporating vector elements that need to be scaled. Below is a list of Pixel-based software (ideal for photo editing) and Vector-based software (ideal for creating).

When to use CMYK?:

Branding: Business cards, stationary, stickers, signs & storefronts.)
Advertising: Billboards, posters, flyers, vehicle wraps or brochures.
Merchandise: T-shirts, hats, other branded clothing, promotional swag (pens, mugs, etc.).
Essential Materials: Product packaging or restaurant menus

File formats for CMYK?:

PDF
AI – Adobe Illustrator
EPS

Conclusion

Knowing how the colours interact to define a pigment can give you greater control over how the final colour looks, and therefore greater control over your final design. The more you work within a particular colour mode the better you’ll get at predicting how the design file will translate to an end product. That’s why if you want picture-perfect colours every time, it’s best to hire a professional designer.

RGB vs CMYK, What's the difference?

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