CMYK & RGB Colour Models for Print & Digital Design

CMYK vs RGB for print and digital

If you are familiar with working with digital or print design, you will probably be aware of the different colour models to utilise. RGB is an additive colour model, which means white is produced by combining all the primary coloured lights and black is the absence of light. CMYK is however a subtractive colour model and refers to the ink colours Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black).

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black

The CMYK model works by partially masking the colours on a lighter, usually white background. The ink, which reduces the light that would have been reflected, therefore ‘subtracts’ the colours red, green and blue from white light. This distinction between the models makes the RGB prefect for digital and CMYK ideal for print; CMYK sometimes refers to the printing process itself.

However, the range offered by RGB (its colour gamut) is larger than that of the CMYK which explains why sometimes although you design looks good on screen in RGB, the CMYK usually lacks vibrancy. Also, some colours cannot be reproduced using CMYK. As a result your print out may look a little muddied. If you are a professional photographer for example, this is obviously not the result you want.

Many constraints exist when trying to achieve the reproduction of colours that are perceived by the eye in nature. However, there are many printing processes that have be devised such as offset and lithographic printing processes, which though are still in development, already produce a more natural look.

One good advice is to make sure you only work with colours that can be printed (that is, within the CMYK gamut). For example if you are working in Photoshop, you can opt to work in the CMYK mode. However, with today’s wide format printers that have 12 ink colours, you may be able to achieve a spectrum closer to that of RGB. Canon’s imagePROGRAF PRO printer range has good options for this. You can buy printing supplies for these printers in the InknTonerUK website. Ideally, if you are concerned about the colours looking good you would opt for original inks. But, this can be very expensive, so we provide you with multipack options which will give you great savings. For example, we sell multi-packs for the imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, imagePROGRAF PRO-2000, imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 and more.

CMYK vs RGB