cmyk » Decoding Design Speak #1: What does RGB and CMYK mean?

Decoding Design Speak #1: What does RGB and CMYK mean?

When your designer starts talking about RGB + CMYK, do you simply glaze over and wish they would quit the jargon? 

RGB and CMYK are common terms used in the design industry. ‘Screen’ and ‘print’ are the client-facing version but your designer may revert to jargon by default. Here’s a demystifying article to help you work out what these acronyms mean.

 

RGB = Red Green Blue
This is the colour language that screens use. The light in a computer monitor is made up of tiny Red, Green and Blue particles and this results in the image on your screen.

If a CMYK version of a logo, for example, is viewed on screen it will more than likely look fluorescent and the colour will be distorted. This is because print language does not view well on screen. But an RGB document will print quite well.
Apple smartphones also have a Retina version of RGB colour language, making the quality of the image on screen crisp and clear.

 

CMYK = Cyan Magenta Yellow blacK
Printing traditionally uses a 4 colour process and CMYK is the language that a printer uses to determine the colour output for your shiny print project. The final result is a colour formula outputting to print to create your piece of collateral.
As you can see below, Pantone 376CP (a universal colour formula guide) is 54% Cyan 0% Magenta 100% Yellow and 0% Black.

pantone376