Why is CMYK used for Printing?

Feb 13, 2020

One of the most commonly asked questions we get here at the NPW printshop in Ogallala is “What’s the difference between CMYK and RGB?”. A good rule to remember is that CMYK color is used for designing print materials like business cards, fliers and posters. RGB color mode is used for designing digital communication such as websites and television.

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key Color (Black) use subtractive color, adding darkness to a light space, in our case a piece of white paper. It can be a difficult concept to explain, so we’ve created this short video to help visualize how these four colors—CMYK—come together to create a full-color image.


Red, green and blue (RGB) use additive color, adding “lightness” to a dark space (a computer screen). In print when you try to mix these already dark colors together, you get muddy, indistinct colors. We also can’t start with black paper and add light because light cannot be painted onto a surface.

Ready to print a project but it was designed in RGB? Have no fear, you can convert your files to CMYK! Check out this post on how to convert your files on most commonly used applications, like PhotoShop and InDesign. Using Canva to create? No problem, take a look at this help page to find out how to convert your files.

Now that your files are ready, let’s get to printing! Still have questions? Ready to print? Call us at (308) 284-2194, we can help!