15 Nov, 22

How Colour is Printed

Firstly, it is important to note that occasionally colours may not be as bright on your print than they are on the computer screen. Why? RGB and CMYK are the reason for colour appearing different on the printed version than on screen.

What is RGB and CMYK?

RGB is an abbreviation for Red, Green, and Blue. RGB is the colour process utilised on computer screens, mobile devices, televisions and basically anything with a screen. RGB is an additive colour and when red, green, and blue merge together in many amounts they can make all the colours the human eye can view and more!

On the other hand, CMYK is an abbreviation for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black is known as Key). CMYK is a subtractive colour and is a colour process utilised for printing which combines the four colours in differing proportions to produce printed imagery.

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How does RGB work?

RGB starts with the colour Black and whatever colour is added to the Black, the darkness will get brighter. Merging Red and Green together will make a brighter colour i.e., yellow. Merging the colours Blue and Green will produce Magenta. Finally, merging Green and Blue will create the colour, Cyan. 

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How does CMYK work?

CMYK does the exact opposite to RGB, in that CMYK begins with the colour white and whatever colour is added to the white, this makes the colour darker instead of brighter, resulting in a smaller colour spectrum. When Magenta and Cyan are combined the colour blue is produced. When Cyan and Yellow are combined, the colour green is created. Magenta and Yellow create the colour Red, and when all the three colours are merged, a muddy brown colour is created, and this is where the colour Black (Key) comes into play to produce darker shades.

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To Conclude…

RGB’s colour process means it can produce brightness and colours that CMYK simply cannot produce, and if a colour is chosen that is not in CMYK’s spectrum of colours this means that it will be printed much duller than what was displayed on the screen unfortunately.

However, there is a solution to this problem with the existence of Pantone colours, also referred to as Spot colours. These are special inks that have a distinctive colour, and these colours are usually much brighter than what CYMK can produce. Pantone colours also include metallic and fluorescent colours. However, a major downside that comes with Pantone colours is the cost. Utilising Pantone colours involves Litho printing, this is a printing system where plates are applied to rollers which results in the image being transferred onto paper. For long print runs Litho printing is most suitable, although, for short print runs this is not cost efficient and therefore digital printing is better suited.

Ultimately, its important to pick the right colours for the right process. CMYK is better for printed materials such as brochures, leaflets, and business cards. RGB is better for anything being viewed on a digital display such as a mobile device or computer.

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