A Simple Guide To Colour

Welcome to our second post in our new series of A SIMPLE GUIDE TO COLOUR.
Over the coming weeks we aim to demystify the science behind the graphic design industry and
explain what we do in easy to understand terms. This post is about COLOUR – RGB and CMYK

Whats the difference between RGB and CMYK?

If you’re designing anything in colour, you should be familiar with the two most common colour models-
RGB and CMYK. You don’t need to know all the technical stuff to be a good visual communicator, but
you should be at least be aware that CMYK and RGB are used for different media.
In simple terms, RGB is for digital media like website and television, while CMYK
is for print media like brochures and posters.

RGB – Here’s the science bit (if you’re intrested):

RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue (the primary colours).
and is sometimes know as the Additive Model because colours are added together to make up
what we see on the screen. Basically, images on a computer monitor or television set are
comprised of tiny pixels, that if viewed under a magnifying glass, are one of the three primary colours.
Light is projected through them, blending the colours on the eye’s retina to create the desired colours.


CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.
It is also know as the Subtractive Model because the colours from the spectrum are subtracted
from natural white light into pigments or dyes. These are then printed onto paper in tiny little cyan,
magenta, yellow and black dots. If you were to take a magnifying glass to a magazine cover, for
example, you would see that the main image is just a bunch of dots spread out, some closer than others.
To appear like the colours we want.

It helps to know the difference

If you create a brochure, for example, using RCB Colour, when you send it to the printer
(who uses large bins of of ink that are made in cyan, magenta, yellow and black), your
colours won’t be right when printed. If you are working in Photoshop, make sure you set the
appropriate colour mode (it is one of the options when you first open a new document) for
the finished medium. If it’s a website, select RGB, if it’s going to be printed, select CMYK.

Feel free to share Passion’s Easy Genius Guide with a friend or colleague, or print out the
downloadable  PDF for your work space

Download CMYK/RGB Infographic