Everything You Need to Know About CMYK

CMYK printing is the standard in the printing industry. CMY covers most light colour ranges while K gives it the ability to create darker, deep colours. CMYK colour has a wider range of colours though is limited compared to the RGB colour profile. RGB is used across electronic devices, emitting red, green and blue light to create other colours. Unfortunately, CMYK colour and RGB color do not translate well.

What is CMYK?

CMYK Definition: CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black and is the colour profile used in print.

C = Cyan
M = Magenta
Y = Yellow
K = Black

CMYK colour is created using a subtractive process. This means that each additional colour means more light is removed to create it. When C, M, and Y are combined, you will not achieve pure back, but rather a dark brown colour. K is used to completely remove the light from the printed picture, which the eye sees as black.

CMYK Black + White

When you have 100% of all colours (C 100%, M 100%, Y 100%, and K 100%) it creates solid black. In contrast, when you have 0% of all colours (C 0%, M 0%, 0%, Y, and 0% K), everything is subtracted and your print will come out completely blank.

It is possible to create black and white colours by just using K, but if you are looking for more vibrant tones or shades of grey, you’ll achieve better results using all four colour elements. For example, what is referred to as “rich black” uses C 50%, M 50%, Y 50%, and K 100%.

This concept is true for all colours. If only one of the four possible primary colours is used (for example 60% C, 0% M, 0%, Y, and 0% K) the underlying material tends to shine through.

It is important to use CMYK when creating a design for print to ensure your desired colours translate correctly from the computer to the printed product.

CMYK vs RGB

Have you ever received a print and upon inspection realized some of the colours were not what you were expecting? You’re not crazy! It can happen if you don’t pay attention to which colour profile you are using when you design. Your colors look different on screen than in print because printing uses the CMYK colour profile while computers display RGB colour values.

What is RGB?

RGB stands for red, green, and blue. Red, green and blue are the primary colours from which all other colours and shades come.

R = Red
G = Green
B = Blue

RGB uses an additive property to create colours by combining the primary colours in varying degrees to create different colours. When all three colours are combined to their full extent, the result is white, as opposed to the black you achieve with CMYK. Combining all three colours to their lowest extent will result in black. RBG colour models are most often used in electronic devices as the screens tend to be darker. Combining red, green and blue light produces lighter colours, working in contrast to the dark screens.

CMYK Black + White

When you have 100% of all colours (C 100%, M 100%, Y 100%, and K 100%) it creates solid black. In contrast, when you have 0% of all colours (C 0%, M 0%, 0%, Y, and 0% K), everything is subtracted and your print will come out completely blank.

It is possible to create black and white colours by just using K, but if you are looking for more vibrant tones or shades of grey, you’ll achieve better results using all four colour elements. For example, what is referred to as “rich black” uses C 50%, M 50%, Y 50%, and K 100%.

This concept is true for all colours. If only one of the four possible primary colours is used (for example 60% C, 0% M, 0%, Y, and 0% K) the underlying material tends to shine through.

It is important to use CMYK when creating a design for print to ensure your desired colours translate correctly from the computer to the printed product.

What is the Difference between CMYK and RGB

CMYK and RBG colour profiles render differently depending on which medium they are being used for. RGB is best used for digital purposes because of the makeup of a digital monitor. A digital monitor is composed of tiny pixels, which are comprised of three light units, red, green and blue. When applying the RGB values to these pixels, you are setting the luminosity for each of the light units in the pixel, determining the colour of it.

CMYK colour is best for printing because the colour white is already provided (as the piece of white paper.) The white acts as a base, while values of C, M, and Y are added creating different colours and shades. The more you add, the darker the colours get.

When using CMYK there are fewer colour possibilities. CMYK has a numerical range of 4×100 whereas RGB is 3×256. Therefore you can’t reproduce many of the vibrant colours of RGB colour space with CMYK.

 

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