Have you ever asked, “Why does the RGB color on my screen look so different from the print?” Your CMYK printer has just gotten lost in color translation. That screen using RGB has the power to harness light! Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black dots are no match.

What is RGB?

The RGB color model is just that: Red, Green, and Blue. RGB rays of light combine to create 16,581,375 possible color combinations. The RGB color model is used by our eyes, monitors, videos, and any other display using light to transfer an image. The screen you’re reading this very blog post on is using RGB colors to display images and text.

RGB is also known as additive color, because all colors combined create pure white. The absence of color (light) would be black (darkness).

Each color is labeled in range of 0-255 of each component. 0-0-0 is black, zero intensity. 255-255-255 is white, full intensity. When the intensities are the same, such as 100-100-100, the result is a shade of gray. Darkness or lightness would depend on the level of intensity. When the intensities are different, the result is a color hue that depends on the strongest and weakest of intensities of the three primary red, green, and blue colors. 40-200-200 is a rich ocean teal.

So How Do We Print RGB?

We don’t. RGB is NOT acceptable for print. CMYK is the complete opposite, subtractive, color system. It’s more limited in range of possible colors, especially vibrant brights or glowing neons that RGB (or sometimes Pantone) can accomplish.

Most programs can one-click export to a CMYK color model for print, but best to just start with the correct model in the first place. If the final product is viewed on a screen or device using light, stick with RGB. If printing, CMYK. And remember to never, ever judge color by your screen.