What Does CMYK Stand For?

What Does CMYK Stand For?

Not many of us have heard of the term CMYK, except those who have worked in commercial printing. The acronym stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key. These are the primary colours used in all printing of all shades and processes. We know what you're wondering. What the hell kind of colour is key? It is black, the crucial ingredient or the foundation of all printing.

Black is Key

The colour black offers all kinds of layering and depth to the result, while the rest of the colours create the shades and spectrum required of the image. When you mix one with the other, you usually get the different colours that all of us have seen. Let's say you mix cyan with yellow, and you get green. Now adding or lessening the amount of cyan and yellow will give you varying shades of green and other names that you're probably not going to remember. The combination of adding these 4 colours in different layers is what we get at the end in full colours.

What is RGB, Then?

Oh, you're already tired of acronyms? Don't worry, and this is the last one. RGB is the colour combination that your computer screen works on. So for designers out there, this is important for you. RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue. Pretty straightforward, but what matters is in graphic design, even the slightest shade of white has to be the same. So you have to know your colours if you want the final design to look the same way in your hands as it did on the screen. You can get help of any expert designed who has experience. Even if I talk about Boxo Packaging we arrange a meeting by booking a meeting room for our experts in somehow situations.

Their most distinctive property is that RGB starts on a black canvas, and other colours are added to it. CMYK begins on a white canvas on which black and then different colours are added. 

Which one is Commercially Viable?

Most Printers now print in CMYK simply because this range of colours is more viable and easier to discern with the broad spectrum you have at your fingertips. As the dyes are created differently in CMYK and RGB, there can be slight variations in colour after conversion to CMYK. You might experience printing problems if you designed artwork in software that produces RGB docs.The colours render differently according to the amount of white space present and how much "mixing" of colours is needed. All colours need to be converted before using them across all platforms.

Which is better? CMYK Or RGB?

Compared to CMYK, the RGB scheme allows for a greater spectrum and more vivid and vibrant colours. CMYK cannot reproduce these colours, so what appears on the monitor or display will appear darker and duller in print. In CMYK colour printing, the ink partially masks colours on the lighter surfaces. The ink reduces the reflection of light. 

In RGB colour printing, the opposite happens. If you want to digitally see something in its total capacity, use RGB because the colours will be accurate in that mode. Most established design software such as Adobe have options to convert from RGB to CMYK. But doing this flawlessly is almost impossible due to the foundational differences in both models.


Mixing additively is when colour begins as black darkness, and then red, green, and blue light are added on top of each other to brighten and create the perfect pigment. This is why CMYK is subtractive and RGB is additive. 

RGB colour spaces are used primarily on digital displays like computers and TVs. They display colour by using the light coming from the device. This allows for a vibrant display. White colour is achieved when all the spectrums from the RGB colour space overlap.

Whenever you send someone an artwork file, use JPEG or PNG because these are the best options for both kinds of colour modes. It's best to know the other person's preference beforehand to avoid restarting the process because of a colour mode conversion error.

If you ever require a professional eye to check out your colours for printing and packaging, we are happy to assist you in any way. Box packaging has been in the printing industry for many years, and it is safe to say that we know this like the back of our hands. You can reach out to us at sales@boxopackaging.com  to get colours on point!