Difference Between CMYK and RGB in Digital Display Screens

If you are new to the graphic design industry, you would have a common question as most beginners do. They get confused between the difference of CYMK and RGB file. Sometimes a client would ask you to supply a digital image file in one of the above formats. And if you don’t know the basics, you can lose your job too.

If the right format is not used, the image can become a blur and distorted. The colors will also not show properly. If you’re a brand, this could affect your reputation. Therefore, here is a common question answered as we will differentiate between CYMK and RGB in digital display screens.


CMYK is an acronym for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black). These are the colors of the inks that are used in the general four-color process printing method. It is a commonly used term in the graphic design industry and can also be called full-color. It is basically a printing process in which each ink color is printed with a set pattern, of which each color overlaps to create a subtractive color spectrum. In the spectrum, the more color you overlap, the darker your resulting color will be. Human eyes see this printed color spectrum as images and words on paper or printed surfaces. The effect we see on our computer screens is not really possible to achieve with the four color process of printing.


RGB is an acronym for Red, Green, and Blue. These are the colors of light that are used in a digital display screen. RGB is an additive color spectrum. Any image you see on a monitor or digital display screen will be produced in RGB format. In the RGB color space, the more overlapping color you add, the lighter your resulting image will be. Most digital cameras also save their images in the RGB color spectrum as per the above reason.

The color spectrum of RGB is larger than that of CMYK. RGB images with very bright colors could see an unintended color shift when converting to CMYK.

CMYK is mostly used for printing. RGB is specialized for digital screens. However, the main point of focus is that the RGB color spectrum is larger than that of CMYK, so therefore, what we see on our computer screens is not possible to achieve with the four color process printing.

When you are creating artwork or images, make sure to see the right color spectrum according to the project needs.