Best format for printing RGB or CMYK?

If you are a budding designer or receiving a design, then you have obviously come across terms like RBG and CMYK. And if that made you wonder what they are and how they can be used differently, then you have arrived at the right destination. In this article, we will tell you what is the best format for printing CMYK or RGB.

Best format for printing RGB or CMYK

Both RGB and CMYK are color modes that are used for different purposes. However, the industry standard for printing with ink is considered to be CMYK which stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key/Black.

Before we dive into the details of why CMYK is better than RGB, it is essential to understand that both these terms are much more than just terms or colors.

Hence, their use is dependent on the final product you want to achieve. And if you choose the wrong form or mode of color, you might end up disrupting your work. 

Therefore, it becomes crucial to know what RGB color mode is and what purpose it fulfills in comparison to its counterpart, CMYK.

What is RGB, and how is it different from CMYK?

As you might have guessed, RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. This color mode is widely regarded as the best for viewing images on digital devices.

Hence you should never use them to create images that will be printed on paper.

The reason behind this is the light source present inside digital devices. According to experts, this light source creates colors by means of mixing red, green, and blue. It varies their intensity in order to create different shades of colors. 

This process is known as additive mixing. Initially, all the colors began with black. Then light colors like red, green, and blue are added on top of it to create a lighter pigment, eventually making pure white.

The use of RGB allows the creation of a million shades of different colors.

While creating a design, they can now control and balance the aspects like saturation, vibrance, and shading by modifying these three source colors to their liking.

Now that we have understood what RGB is let’s see its uses:

  • Web & App design
  • Social Media images and backdrops
  • Visual content: video, infographics, and photos for websites
  • Branding: logos and much more

Why is CMYK Best format for printing?

Having understood what RGB is and what its functionalities are, getting a grip on CMYK becomes very easy.

It stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key/Black and is considered the perfect color mode for printing.

The reason behind this notion is the fact that printing machines are designed to combine the CMYK colors on varying patterns with physical ink. This process is referred to as subtractive mixing. 

Unlike the RGB, which originally starts from black, CMYK colors start with white.

And the printers don’t add colors. Instead, it uses shades of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black to remove the colors reflected on the paper, hence creating the colors that we actually want to see.

Therefore, CMYK is the best format out there to use while printing something. And here are some of the best uses of this color mode:

  • Product Packaging
  • Restaurant Menus
  • Billboards
  • Posters, flyers, and brochures
  • Business cards, stationary, stickers

What will happen if you use RGB for printing?

After knowing in detail about the processes behind the two-color modes, it’s only normal to question what happens if you use RGB for printing. 

To answer this, let’s understand that a printer cannot comprehend the RGB format. Hence it will automatically convert it to CMYK format.

And since RGB has a broader spectrum for color than its counterpart, the print result might be very different than what the image appears on your digital screen. 

Because of the limited color spectrum, some colors might not print at all. Furthermore, printed colors might also not look as vibrant and catchy as you would have expected them to. 

Hence, it is always recommended to convert your RGB files into CYMK before printing them on commercial printers.

Although with the advent of technology, some printers out there have started supporting the RGB format. But for better results, always print in CYMK.


Viewing images on digital devices and printing them on paper are two different experiences. And by comparing both these types of color modes side by side, we have reached a conclusion to the initial doubt regarding the best format for printing: CMYK or RGB.

Hence for a designer working on projects meant for printing, the best practice is to work with CYMK colors so that your output after print doesn’t differ much from what you worked on the screen.


How many possible colors can be created using RGB?

In RGB, colors are created by mixing different intensities of red, green, and blue light. Each color is represented by a value between 0 and 255, where 0 represents the absence of that color and 255 represents the maximum intensity of that color. This creates a total of 16,777,216 possible colors in the RGB color space.

Why is Black in CMYK represented as “K” instead of “B”?

The reason why “K” is used for black instead of “B” is that “B” is already being used for blue in the RGB color model, which is used for electronic displays.


  • Ashish Simon

    Hello folks! I am Ashish Pawar – A graduate from the field of Arts but an avid admirer of all things tech; therefore, made a leap into writing technical articles for ‘how-to’ guides and ‘informational content’ with the aim to make tech understandable for the masses. I have been in this field for more than a year now. My ideology is that even a layman should be able to understand tech easily. As a creative individual I am also passionately engaged in activities like photography, music, and dance.