The difference between RGB and CMYK colors

If you are approaching the world of printing, it is essential to understand the difference between RGB and CMYK colors. Our eye sees a very wide color spectrum and can therefore distinguish many shades of colors, including some very flashy ones such as fluorescent green or very dark ones such as midnight blue. But how does this translate into graphics and printing?

Let’s look in detail at the two different types of color method and their differences.

What is the RBG color method 

RGB (Red – Blue – Green) is the computer representation of how color is perceived by our eye and is a 3-channel color method (trichrome).

The color range is very wide, going from bright colors like fluorescent to extremely dark colors like midnight blue or very dark green.

This representation is possible on all devices that can emit light, such as smartphones and monitors, through a real combination of lights of the colors recognized as primary: red, blue and green.

This is an additive method, as such it presents us with colors thanks to their sum, starting for example from a black screen without light we can turn on only the red and get an all red screen, then add the green and then get the yellow color, and finally add the blue color to get a white and very bright screen.

This feature allows the RGB model to be suitable for representation and display of images on electronic devices.

Most devices generally use combinations of red, green and blue to display the pixels of an image, but this makes the representation of the image particularly dependent on the device itself: the same image may be displayed differently depending on the device settings.

What is the CMYK color method?  

CMYK (Cyan/cyan – Magenta – Yellow/yellow – Black/black) is the method we use most for printing in general, from offset to digital printing and from watercolors to colored pencils.

The reproduction of color in print using these four inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is called four-color printing. This is a subtraction method, by adding the primary colors to the sheet (or to the white material) we will create darker and darker combinations until we reach a very dark color. Contrary to the RGB method, CMYK needs a black color enhancer to obtain a covering color, since the other colors together will give nothing but a very intense brown.

It is not clear where the “K” in the acronym comes from. According to some it is the initial of “key color”, for others it is the last letter of “black”. The CMYK method will almost always have less bright colors than RGB because it will not produce light like its counterpart, which will limit the spectrum of reproducible colors such as fluorescent colors.

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