RGB or CMYK. The difference between color models

Use one color. Any color. Clear and bright. Or dark and boring. Use different combinations of different colors. You've seen it on posters, movies and comics. The combination of colors is the key to create cool designs. You can use many different tools like Photoshop to combine colors in a design. If you want to create your own design, you will eventually use some  programs.

So, a design is printed on your T-shirt and you noticed that the colors of the image on the screen and T-shirt did not match. The image on the monitor is a bit brighter and more saturated. Most often, this difference is due to the use of different color models. We’ll try to simply explain the difference between RGB and CMYK color models.

The most frequently asked questions are:

- What is RGB and CMYK and when do we use them?

- What is the difference between RGB and CMYK?

- What is the best color mode for printing?

- Which is better: CMYK or RGB?

Let's start with some basic facts about color. All the colors we see with our own eyes are part of the visible color spectrum. They are represented in the circle below.



 The RGB and CMYK color systems have their own color spectrum. You can see them in the picture below.     


What is RGB?  

RGB (Red, Green, Blue) is a color model that describes the way colors are synthesized by which red, green and blue light  overlay together to blend in different colors. It is widely used in the technique that reproduces images by light radiation. Due to technological limitations, our computers' screens cannot display any color that our eyes can see. Instead, the colors are displayed on the screens in the RGB model.


Each pixel in the digital devices we use has three tiny, slightly overlapping RGB light sources. At a distance, our eyes see it as one color.  That is, if you want to show something yellow, the RGB pixel will be highlighted in green and red together, without blue. The higher the light intensity, the brighter the colors. At full intensity,  combined colors look white and at zero intensity black.  The best thing about the RGB color system is that it gives you a wide variety of color combinations to play with when creating digital designs.


When is the RGB color system used?
RGB colors are used for digital purposes. Any images that appear on the digital screen will be displayed in RGB. This is important to keep in mind when creating print files, as you will probably do it in Photoshop or similar software.  We recommend creating the CMYK print files and then converting them to RGB. We'll explain the reasons later, and now let's talk about CMYK.

What is CMYK?

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Key is just another name for Black). It's basically the opposite of RGB. Because the CMYK subtractive model is mainly used in color printing, and paper and other printing materials are light reflecting surfaces, it is more convenient to calculate how much light (and colors) are reflected from one surface or the other than how much is absorbed. "Subtractive" means "subtracted" - we subtract the primary colors from white. Thus, if we subtract from white the three primary RGB colors, we will get three additional CMY colors. The CMYK model offers less color coverage than the additive RGB model.

For example, if you combine yellow and purple (subtract yellow from purple), you will get red. You can combine any two Cyan, Magenta, or Yellow colors to create one of the three RGB colors.If this looks a bit confusing, just try to think about drawing with colored pencils. If you combine two different colors, you get a third one. So it's the same as CMYK.When you combine all three colors, the final color turns gray. Because we also need black, this is the fourth color. That's why CMYK is sometimes called a four-color system.

When the CMYK color system is used 
CMYK is recommended for any print material. Why do we use CMYK for printing? It has greater color accuracy, meaning even the smallest details and designs will look clearer.In CMYK, the color intensity is not as flexible as in RGB, because it is not possible to reproduce the ink with the same intensity and brightness that your display can show on paper or fabric.

This means that some RGB colors simply do not appear when printing in CMYK. By default, design software (Photoshop etc.) uses RGB mode. If your projects are designed exclusively for the Internet, this is the best option. But print designs must be made in CMYK.   Now to answer the previous question why you should design in CMYK and then convert to RGB for print from Wall31:

1. We need PNG files. Only RGB allows you to export to this file. CMYK does not work with PNG format.

2. When working in CMYK sometimes (depending on the software), problems may occur if the file has multiple layers. The printer can print all the hidden layers, making the final design different.

To simplify:  

- We accept PNG files

- You need to create your own designs in CMYK to keep the colors accurate

- You need to convert CMYK to RGB to get PNG file

What if I develop a design in RGB without CMYK and print it? The printer will not print some colors and the colors of your design may be different from the original.


How to convert RGB to CMYK?

It depends on the software and version you are using. There are currently lots of videos on Youtube with instructions for various software. If you have not found the opportunity to work with CMYK and RGB - contact us and we will help you in file conversion.


Is CMYK better than RGB?

CMYK and RGB are used for different tasks and it is important to know when to use them. As we do our own printing, we stay within the CMYK range, but we convert the designs to RGB to produce PNGs.