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Knowing RGB and CMYK.

When you’re designing, it’s important that you understand the difference between RGB, CMYK and other colors for print. The difference is, RGB should be used for designs that will be used only in the digital space, while CMYK should be used for designs that would be printed outside the digital space.

What is RGB?

RGB is an additive color method that mixes the three primary colors that are in the visible light spectrum- Red, Green and Blue. These are the colors used by your computer and they can only be viewed with natural light or computer screen light and not printed on paper.

These colors when combined give birth to secondary colors, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. When you mix all the RGB colors, you get the color white.

What is CMYK?

CMYK is a subtractive color mixing method. Subtractive color mixing is done by lighting colored filters from behind with a white light. When the colors overlap, light is subtracted and when all the colors overlap, it produces the color black. CMYK is the standard color mixing method used for print, and it is also known as 4 color printing.

The Range Comparison Chart aka Print Gamut and The Visible Color Spectrum

If you want to understand the color difference between CMYK and RGB better, just look at the range comparison chart a.k.a color gamut. This chart shows the visible color spectrum and illustrates situations where the RGB color space is outside the CMYK space. It is these colors that would be affected when converting from RGB to CMYK.

Color Matching Systems (CMS)

Color matching systems allows colors to remain consistent across jobs by specifically identifying and cataloguing pre-mixed inks so that any device will be able to produce the same color outcome.

Colour Separation

This is the breakdown of color graphics or photos into single color layers. When you want to print full color photos, the colors must first be separated into different layers. Every single-color layer would then be printed separately, each one on top of the other, to give the impression of infinite colours.

There are two types of color separation. Process color separation is when you mix three or four colors to get a variety of colors. Spot color separation is used to separate colors that are not to be mixed. Spot colors are great for highlighting text but cannot be used to reproduce full color images.


When do you use 4, 5, 7 and 10 colors for print?

4 Colour CMYK Printing is used for graphics and to reproduce color images and text in commercial printing.

5 Color printing is simply CMYK with the addition of a vibrant spot color. It is used where there’s a need to add a vibrant spot color to the reproduction of an image, like a logo or in a document.

7 Colour printing is CMYK plus orange, violet and green. It’s used to add vibrancy to print and in complex or high-volume printing jobs.

10 Color Printing is used for complex and high volume printing jobs. It helps to curb paper and ink wastage too.

Have fun designing and printing!

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