What is RGB & CMYK Color Model in Print & Packaging ?

What is RGB & CMYK Color Model in Print & Packaging ?

RGB and CMYK color models are used to enhance the attractiveness of the product packaging in the competitive marketplace.  These are the color combinations that make the brand eye-catching to potential customers. The selection between RGB and CMYK color models depends upon the client’s requirements and market trends. The choice should be done before the initiation of the printing process to turn the custom boxes iconic for the target customers. To better understand the difference between the color models, let’s start with their definitions:

What is CMYK Color Model?


CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black). This color model is used for the printing of packaging materials. All colors start with white in the CMYK color model. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, or Key (Black) ink is added to the white to reduce the brightness and achieve the desired color.

The model utilizes four primary colors Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, or Key (Black). This is considered best for the printing of documents, brochures, and distinct packaging materials. CMYK color model creates images with a combination of primary color tints with a little ratio of ink.

You must be getting curious about the letter “K” or key referring to the Black color. Well, Johann Gutenberg, the creator of the printing press, used the word key for Black. This has compelled people to follow the same trend and the “key” still stands for Black in the contemporary print and packaging industry. 

When to Use CMYK Color Model in Print & Packaging?

CMYK should be used for the printing of packaging materials. It is better than RGB, which you’ll understand with the details given below. CMYK color model lets you have distinct color shades or tones which could not be perceived by the digital platforms but are easy to notice with the naked eye.

CMYK is also called a “subtractive” coloring scheme. It is quite a cost-efficient technique, making the packaging budget quite affordable for small and large enterprises.If you want to give your packaging expectations a realistic touch, then the CMYK model gives you the most accurate results. The CMYK coloring model gives your packaging an outstanding appearance with the use of an aqueous coating, embossing vs debossing, and spot UV for printing.

File Formats Best for CMYK

CMYK printing gives excellent results in PDF format. It is a universal platform considered efficient to share the product print and packaging design files. Adobe Illustrator’s AI format holds incredible compatibility for editing files with printing designs and logo elements.

TIFF (tagged image file format) is also extensively used for CMYK printing as it supports multi-layered images. This file format could be easily imported into MS Word, Illustrator, InDesign, and various text editors, giving flawless color printing onto premium packaging materials.

What is the RGB Color Model?


RGB refers to Red, Green, and Blue. RGB performs efficiently well for digital mediums. This is used for the display of images and logos on screen. The colors do not give the same results in the printing form in the case of the RGB color model.

All the colors you witness on screen are a blend of red, green, and blue colors. The combination of these three basic colors create white color. This is called an “additive” coloring scheme. 

When to Use RGB Color Model in Print & Packaging?

RGB color model is best for the designs only holding the screen view. This does not give you attractive results in package printing. RGB designs are usually converted into CMYK format to achieve perfection in printing processes. RBG makes everything striking through the display screen but the CMYK format generates quite close results in the printed form. CMYK gives your imagination a realistic touch of colors on the printed packaging material, which definitely remains as close as the RGB display color model.

File Formats Best for RGB Color Model

RGB models are usually stored in JPG format. It offers great image quality and appropriate file size for RGB artwork design. PSD format is usually preferred in the case of Adobe Photoshop.

PNG format is best for the RGB color models having images with transparent portions. This is also considered best for designs having fewer colors. Logos, buttons, and icons are mostly saved in PNG format for perfect results.  

GIFs are the best for animated images. The RGB color model does not work efficiently well with EPS, BMP, PDF, and TIFF as most of them are holding compatibility problems.

Difference Between RGB & CMYK Printing

The difference between RGB and CMYK color models could effortlessly be observed in terms of their printing. RGB supports screen display while CMYK is best for printing. To further understand the variation, let’s have a look at the following table:

 CMYK Color ModelRGB Color Model
MethodMix four distinct colors to create new color shades and tones.Involved in the arrangement of pixels to generate new colors.
MediumThe method is perfect for printing purposes.This is best to display images on screens.
UsageMostly used for the premium printing of packaging designs holding a variety of colors.This is mostly used to show product packaging artwork designs on digital devices.
Color QualityThe colors are quite bright and attractive.Hold a large range of color shades but keep it less vibrant.

Stephan Benjamin

Stephan Benjamin, is a packaging expert at Box Agency, specializes in crafting durable solutions. With extensive experience in manufacturing, he knows the perfect materials for various packaging needs. He shares his expertise on all things packaging-related through his articles.

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