CMYK and RGB Color Systems


RGB is known as the additive color system, and is most often used on monitors and digital work, like TVs, computers and phones, due to it´s possibility to show millions of colors. RGB stands for the primary colors red, green and blue. When these colors are combined they form white light. Colors in this system is arranged in levels from 0 to 255. JPEG, PNG, PSD and GIF are great file formats for RGB work.

R – Red
G – Green
B – Blue


The subtractive color system, using CMYK, is used in printing and all non-digital advertisment or materials. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black). When printing the machine creates color by combining CMYK colors to varying degrees with physical ink. All of these colors start as blank white, but when all colors are mixed together they create pure black (or in some cases a dark musky brown). Key in this color system creates the contrasts, and the colors are arranged in percentages between 0 and 100. AI, PDF and EPS are usually used as file formats for printing and CMYK.

C – Cyan
M – Magenta
Y – Yellow
K – Key


We can use a color wheel to show the primary, secondary and tertiary colors. But it can also show monochromatic, complementary, tetrad and analogous shades. I will now present some color schemes created in Adobe Color to show some of these color combinations.





Graphic Design School (Dabner, Stewart and Vickress 2020)

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