Color: CMYK vs. RGB and Spot Color

Digital cameras, scanners and monitors create images by combining three colors: red, green and blue (RGB). These primary colors of light combine to produce images on computer and television screens. RGB colors may appear brighter as light is being projected directly into your eyes.

The Difference Between CMYK and RGB Colors

Whether your custom labels have one color or ten, it’s important that they’re designed in the right color settings. Label printing (and other types of printing) use what’s called ‘4 color process’ to produce full-color results. ‘4 color process‘ refers to CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and ‘key’ for black) inks that are printed in varying amounts to produce an array of colors. We often see, however, with newer label buyers that their label artwork has been designed in RGB (red, green, blue) colors which can cause some problems when it comes time to prepare the artwork for print. Check out our video to learn the difference between CMYK and RGB colors, and why they matter with custom label printing.

RGB Color

RGB color is an additive process because the three colors are combined in different amounts to produce various colors. Equal maximum amounts of all three colors (often expressed as R255, G255, B255) creates white. The absence of all three colors (R0, G0, B0) creates black. It’s not uncommon for graphic design applications to set up documents in the RGB color space as the default because computers use RGB to display color. RGB displays colors outside of the CMYK range, meaning RGB colors won’t look the same as your printed colors.

CYMK Color and Spot Colors

CMYK (also known as process color) builds colors by applying layers of ink in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. If you need a single, matched color (usually Pantone colors) then you need a spot color. Spot colors are used when one or two solid colors are needed for an image, or when a color has to be matched and reproduced consistently for example with a company logo. Spot color inks can accurately reproduce colors that are outside the gamut of process colors. If a spot color is used along with process color, then a four-color print job becomes a five or six-color job. Spot color printing plates can also be used to apply varnish over areas of your label.