Should I Use RGB or CMYK Color Mode for Printing Images? | The Graphics Shop

Should I Use RGB or CMYK Color Mode for Printing Images?

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When printing colored images, it is essential to know which color mode you should produce the best results. With this, you must learn which color mode best fits your photo. These two can be quite confusing, especially when you don’t have enough background for graphic designing. Most graphic designers know that differentiating the color profiles is crucial because choosing the wrong color mode will affect the tone and message of your document.


The RGB color profile comprises Red, Green, and Blue hues that combine to create many variations of colors. Exists only in screen displays, the RGB color mode is present in computer monitors, mobiles, and television screens. Although this color mode exists in all electronic devices, the color elements vary across systems and models (e.g. the image you see on an iMac differs on a Dell desktop computer).

The RGB profile is involved in additive processes to produce color by blending light instead of using ink to produce hues. The presence of all RGB primary colors at full intensity results in white, while the absence of color produces black. As you turn a screen off, you see an absence of RGB color, i.e. you see a black screen. The color you see on your monitor or screen is caused by the RGB base hues.

When to use RGB color mode

It is not uncommon to cause complications on the color profile. However, to avoid them, always set a document in RGB when designing for social media, digital design, or online advertisements. Whatever image or design you have, as long as it exists on a screen or monitor, set it as RGB.


The CMYK color profile contains Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black) that combine to produce a range of hues. This color mode is what we see on printers. When you zoom in on any printed image, you will see the four-color dots that layer to create different hues and gradations. Although all printers produce prints in CMYK, the results will differ among different styles and models of printers.

If the absence of all RGB colors produces black, CMYK produces white. Cyan and magenta create blue, magenta and yellow create red, and yellow and cyan create green. The presence of the all CMYK color combined produces an off-black shade.

When to use CMYK color mode

CMYK are commonly reserved for printed designs such as business cards, flyers, posters, and packaging. Setting your documents to CMYK before exporting or printing will prevent unbalanced colors that will cause RGB colors being translated into CMYK equivalents.

We hope you have learned about the RGB and CMYK color modes. By letting yourself be informed about what these are and when to use them, you can now know which one to use when printing an image!

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