From a designer’s perspective, it’s super frustrating to print marketing material and have the colors look different than they originally did on screen. This happens because of CMYK and RGB color modes; commonly seen acronyms, but less commonly known meanings.

What do these acronyms mean?

RGB stands for red, green, and blue. Every color seen on electronic screens are made with varying amounts and combinations of these three colors. This makes RGB the ideal color mode when creating digital content. CMYK consists of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. These are subtractive colors, which when combined in the right amounts, result in black. CMYK color mode is ideal for printed material.

But Why?

Because design programs, like Adobe Photoshop, are most commonly used to create digital content, they are set to automatically function in RGB mode. Therefore, when digitally created collateral remains on a digital platform, such as a Facebook post, the colors match the original design. The collateral stays on the platform it was originally intended for.

However, when material is printed, the colors can look much different than they appeared on screen. This is because most printers are set to automatically print in CMYK mode. For example, when a flyer created in Illustrator is printed, it is automatically printed in CMYK which will look different than the colors on screen. Designs can be created in RGB mode and converted to CMYK though! This is actually the preferred way to create a design because RGB will give you the full range of colors before being converted for the printing process.