RGB vs CMYK: You Need To Know The Difference

Graphic Design Jul 2, 2022

Whether you are a professional designer, or just getting into it, you must know the difference between RGB and CMYK color modes to best optimize your designs. Knowing when to use which mode will drastically improve your designing lifestyle.

Every graphic designer or any designer in general must know the difference between these two color schemes. RGB (Red, Green, and Blue) and CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Pink, Key(Black)) are the two most important color modes in any design digital or physical. They exist because of their certain importance and aspect unique to them and not found in the other one.

After reading this article, you will never have to get confused on this topic again! The basic principles are simple, you just need to have the will to learn it.

Source printful.com

What is the difference between RGB and CMYK?

I’ll explain it simply. Colors in any digital screen (mobile phone, TV, monitor) are shown with the help of very tiny boxes that light up called pixels. These pixels have 3 one-colored lights in them. The 3 colors are red, green, and blue. These colors, depending on the brightness of each one of them, can create over 16.4 million colors to be viewed in you digital screen. Cool right?

RGB color mode is made for digital items. Any digital item that’s end destination is on a digital screen, it’s better to use RGB mode.

CMYK, on the other hand, are made for physical printing. You might have noticed, CMYK colors are less vibrant and less saturated — which makes sense because you are never going to see perfect pitch black printed on a piece of cardboard, business card, or any document printing. The colors are never going to be perfectly saturated enough to match the colors of the digital file before its printed. Hence this mode makes sure you see what the final print is going to look like before the deed is done.

Crucial Difference

RGB is also known as the additive color space, which means you have to add more and more colors to get more and more white. In RGB (and real life) White contains all the colors in the world and Black contains no colors at all.

Whereas CMYK is called the subtractive color space which means that you have to take away colors to get more and more brighter, i.e. White. In CMYK mode, White means there’s no color and Black means it contains every color. You have to add colors to get black.

Best File Formats for Each

The quality and efficiency highly depends on the file formats for each color mode the document was exported in.


  • .JPG / .JPEG
  • .PNG
  • .GIF


  • .PDF
  • .EPS
From cyansolutions.com

Hope This Helped!

Now you know the difference between the two most important color schemes in the word of design. If you found this helpful, consider dropping a follow and joining our Discord server.



Hi - I'm Roonie. I am the lead-editor and manager at Netcord Publications. I make videos on YouTube, and I run a community server on Discord. I love music and graphic designing.