What do all these terms mean & how do they impact you? We'll explain all this & more in this short article.
What is RGB?
RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue; we can mix three hues of visible light to create different colors.
16,777,216 colors, to be exact.
0-255 units of each color create each RGB color. RGB is an additive color model, which means the more color, the closer we get to white. Like this:
See how it differs from CMYK colors, where the more ink we add, the closer to black we get.
RGB color gamuts are used by things that use light to create color - for example, computer screens and TVs.
What is CMYK?
CMYK stands for Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, Black (key). We can mix these colors to create about 16,000 different colors.
CMYK is a subtractive color model, which means we remove color to get to white, as shown in the image above.
Many printers use CMYK. White ink's used to create opacity when printing on clear vinyl. Some printers add other colors to these four basic colors to increase the color gamut.
Three popular colors to add are; Orange, Violet & Green.
Here is an example of an orange printed in CMYK (right) vs the original (left). As you can see the CMYK color isn't a good match and needs the additional orange in CMYKOVG to get a better match.
Pantone themselves says that CMYK printers can print 55% of Pantone spot colors. In contrast, CMYKOVG can print 90% of Pantone spot colors - this is a massive difference. (source)
How does all this affect printing?
There are 16+ million RGB colors and only 16,000 CMYK colors, or a few hundred more if your printer prints CMYKOVG.
This image helps to show the differences in the color gamut:
Here is a photo in CMYK and RGB side-by-side:
Designing on your computer in RGB can be risky because it gives us hundreds of beautiful vibrant colors that cannot be printed. Sometimes the only way to match a color is to get expensive spot colors made.
Your best option is to design using CMYK colors to ensure you get the most accurate possible representation of the color.