CMYK vs. RGB

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Guest Blog Post from Amanda Jenny, Widen Client Services Assistant, regarding Widen color management and prepress services


When you turn your computer off, you’re probably looking at a black screen. That’s because computer monitors emit color as RGB (red, green, blue) light. RGB is additive color because you’re starting off with no color, a black screen, and adding color. RGB color shades are varied by using levels of brightness from the electronic source. There are 256 (0 to 255) levels of brightness for on-screen color that create 16,777,216 (256 x 256 x 256) color possibilities. Setting each RGB color to 255 will create white and setting each to 0 leaves black.


CMYK vs. RGB


So what’s the difference between RGB and CMYK? On-screen color is RGB and print is CMYK. In effect, the two are opposites since one is subtractive color and the other is additive color. When you change or create images in the digital world, it’s all RGB -- although programs like Adobe Photoshop allow you to convert to CMYK and essentially create the CMYK color space on-screen. (Photoshop is actually working behind the scenes in another color space but let’s not get into that.) The key point is that since on-screen is RGB, you have to convert to CMYK to print.

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