RGB vs. CMYK - What's the difference?

"But the colors look completely different on the screen!" We often hear this sentence. Because in order to be able to represent color on the screen or on paper, there are different color models.

RGB color model

RGB stands for the light colors red, green and blue. RGB is an additive color model, i.e. the more colors are mixed together, the brighter the hue. Using this color model, up to 16.8 million colors can be represented. The RGB color model is used to display colors on all screens.

CMYK color model

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key Color (Black). CMYK is a subtractive color model, i.e. the more colors are mixed into each other, the darker the color tone becomes. With this color model, up to 4.3 billion colors can be represented. The CMYK color space is therefore smaller than the RGB color space. The CMYK color model is used for all of print products. 

Which color model do I need?

If print data is supplied in the wrong color model, this can lead to significant color deviations in the final print product. It is therefore important to always use the CMYK color model for print media such as posters, flyers and magazines, and the RGB color model for all online applications such as websites, photos for social media and videos. 

If a print product was created in the wrong color model, it is possible to switch between the two color spaces subsequently. However, since not all colors are transferred identically during the conversion, color deviations may occur. Programs in which you can convert the color model are, for example, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and InDesign.  

Which file format for which color model?

For the RGB color model, the ideal file formats are JPEG, PSD, PNG and GIF. The best file formats for CMYK are PDF, AI and EPS.


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