Why Colors Look Different on Screen vs When Printed
When it comes to your brand, colors are extremely important. Understanding how colors are translated on everything from business cards to digital billboards is crucial. Here, we will discuss the difference between RGB and CMYK and how you can preserve your brand’s color identity across all forms of media.
What is the difference between CMYK and RGB?
First, let’s start with the difference between the colors displayed on digital and printed items. Printer ink is composed of 4 basic colors; cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). Computer monitors, mobile phones and other digital displays are composed of 3 basic colors; red, green and blue (RGB).
Remember, knowing how you are going to present your marketing material is important to determine up front so it’s designed in the proper color mode.
How do I know which color mode to choose?
Since your business cards, flyers, brochures, etc. are intended to be printed, they should be designed using the CMYK color settings. That includes the CMYK version of your logo, images and any other elements used in the design.
Items that are designed to be displayed digitally, like your website, social media graphics or even digital billboards should be designed using the RGB color settings.
Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Keynote are programs intended for digital use and don’t allow you to adjust settings like these. This is why we always recommend using professional design programs like Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. These programs are especially important if you intend to use a professional printer versus printing at home – which we always recommend! See why here: Professional Printer vs Desktop Printer
What happens when you print something intended for digital display?
Let’s say you want to print one of your social media graphics intended for Facebook. Since they were designed for RGB, translating them to CMYK will result in the color not appearing as bright on paper as it is on screen. This is because CMYK can only print 70% of the colors that are available in RGB. While most modern desktop printers are supposed to handle the CMYK to RGB conversion for you, they’re not always accurate.
The same rule applies when viewing items intended for print on your computer screen: Since they were designed using CMYK color settings, displaying them in RGB will change the appearance of the colors.
Below is a great example of how an image in RGB mode will print in CMYK.