What seems to be a straightforward comparison the difference between RGB vs CMYK can get pretty deep. We will try to keep things light and give you a general overview and some important pitfalls that can arise when sending files for print.

Simply stated, there are 4 categories of color gamut (range of visible color) that can be achieved within each gamut shown in the diagram. Each category has a smaller range as we go down the list:

The following list is in order from largest visual range to smallest visual range

  •             Visible Color Spectrum – Largest Range
  •             RGB Color Gamut
  •             Pantone Color Gamut
  •             CMYK Color Gamut – Smallest Range

What is the difference between the RGB vs CMYK color space and why does it matter? RGB refers to the primary colors of light, Red, Green and Blue, that are used in monitors, television screens, digital cameras and scanners. CMYK refers to the primary colors of pigment: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. As you can see in the picture below. The same image in RGB has a much different look when converted to CMYK.

Some colors are just not reachable in the limited color spectrum of CMYK. One way to get around certain colors is to use CMYK plus a Pantone color because the Pantone color spectrum is larger, especially in certain hues.

Be sure to convert your files to CMYK before sending in files so you are aware of the print appearance. Previewing your print job in the CMYK color gamut gives you a more realistic expectation of your print results.