We're back with the lingo, to help you understand what's going on with all the jargon, and to leave you feeling knowledgeable and empowered. Today we're talking colour modes. Colour is suuuper important in design (of all kinds) as I'm sure you're fully aware.

The difference between the colour codes RGB and CMYK

Colour is pretty important for most people, actually. We obsess over it for our outfits, our homes, our phone cases - colour is everything, everywhere. And, colour is created in our eyes with light, quite literally. When light hits paper, it's absorbed, but when it hits a screen, it's reflected. This action, creates different versions of the colours we know and love, and that's why we have different colour modes, so we can categorize those colours and use them correctly. 

CMYK and RGB are two different kinds of colour models or modes. They're named for the colours that make them,  so they're very literal and once you know what's what, are easy to remember. CMYK is the colour mode used for printing, and RGB is the colour mode used on screens. Remember that, and you're good to go! But, to dig in further, let's explain those colours:

RGB = red, green, blue 
RGB colours are known as “additive colour”, because the colours are being added together to make other colours (remember playing with paints in elementary school?). When all the colours are added together, the outcome is white!

CMYK = cyan, magenta, yellow, and black
CMYK works in an entirely different way to RGB. Instead of using 'additive' types of colour, it uses subtractive colours. When all colours are subtracted, the outcome is white. This is because the colours absorb the light.


To make it easy, anything online or digital should always be in RGB and printed material should be in CMYK. This is because monitors emit light, while paper absorbs light. Computer monitors show colour as red, green, and blue light at a low-medium resolution 72-75 dots per inch. Print production usually requires the four colour process CMYK in high resolution of at least 300 dpi.

Changing the format from RGB to CMYK is super important when converting web files to print material! Printers who accept RGB files convert the images to CMYK. This can result in faded, dull, or inaccurate colour representation in the final project- ugh! So, converting your file to CMYK gives you better control over the final image outcome.