What are CMYK colors and how to use this palette in your prints?


Still don’t know what CMYK colors are and what is the difference between RGB colors? Don’t worry, in this article, you will learn everything you need to know about these colors and their use for optimal results. Stay until the end and learn how to use CMYK colors, how to find their color codes or plates, and all their possible applications. Do not miss it!

At Open Print, as a graphic printing specialist company, we want to help you in the development of your projects and we know that the correct use of colors is very important in terms of the final result. That is why we have decided to write this post and thus be able to explain to our clients everything they must do to achieve their CMYK color and arrive at the best final product.

What are CMYK colors?

CMYK colors are named for the four basic colors used in color printing; cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. The oldest basic color model is RGB (red, green, and blue) which is still used for fine arts, but it offers a more limited range of colors. That is why they decided to create a more modern version that offered a wider and more precise gamut for color printing, the CMYK color model. These are the colors that we have in the cartridges of any printer.

This model creates other colors based on the mixture of CMY colors (cyan, magenta, and yellow) since the union of these three colors on a white background creates the color black, which is not a primary color;

But in the case of any printing, black ink is used, since the black color created from this union is not the most accurate and we would need to use a huge amount of ink that would cause the paper to humidify, which would lead to its breakage.

mezcla de los colores CMY

CMYK color codes and palettes

CMYK colors are used to create a color model, which consists of a mathematical model that manages to describe the colors with numerical codes. In this case, the CMYK color model uses 4 colors to create its codes. The CMYK code is formed by the letters of the acronym CMYK to which a number is added that defines the amount of the primary color that that printing will use to create the desired color.

Codigos y paletas de colores CMYK

Where can CMYK colors be applied?

The main function of CMYK colors are printed materials since, unlike RGB colors, which are more used in digital devices, they have less brightness. The use of this color model is the most common form of printing and it is perfect for you to print your advertising elements in full color. There are two printing systems that use CMYK colors:

Offset printing

The use of CMYK colors in offset printing offers excellent results. The print is clear and sharp, thanks to its operation. Each color runs separately, one by one. In some cases, six or eight colors could be used to achieve a wider range of colors, but it is a more expensive process.

This type of printing is ideal for creating your brochures, flyers, or even business cards that are perfect for promoting your products and encouraging their sale.

Digital printing

In digital printing, CMYK colors are used since it is a type of printing that uses toners or inkjet technology. But unlike offset printing, in this case, all colors are used at the same time.

Digital printing will become the best ally to print your advertising posters that will boost the sales of your company.

What are the differences between CMYK, RGB, and Pantone?

The RGB color system, unlike CMYK, uses three basic colors (red, green, and blue) to represent all other colors. This model is based on the intensity of the primary colors of light.

The main difference between RGB colors and CMYK colors is that the former are used for electronic devices mainly because the pixels of all displays are formed with the use of RGB colors. They are also colors that emit more light and have more brightness.

These colors also use color codes like the CMYK color system:

diferencia entre rgb y cmykcolores rgb








Pantone colors are a totally different kind of system. They use pre-mixed inks of each specific color that are used for spot color printing. The difference that Pantone colors present to CMYK colors is that the latter has more color possibilities, but the graphic quality of the result is poorer due to their dull colors and they are also less accurate. Pantone colors are more vibrant and sharp.

Regarding its application, the Works made with Pantone colors are usually more expensive since they are printed separately. It is also difficult to go from Pantone color to CMYK because Pantone uses 15 base pigments.

Diferencias entre cmyk y pantone

How to go from RGB to CMYK without changing the colors?

As we have already explained previously, the colors we see on our digital screens are reproduced in RGB colors, so when you print a project the color will always look slightly different than on the computer or tablet. It is physically impossible to create the exact same color going from RGB to CMYK and vice versa. Also, the same CMYK or RGB color will be perceived differently on different devices and printers. This is why we always have to think of RGB and CMYK as numbers tuned for a specific device.

There are different programs that convert your RGB images to the CMYK color system but it is impossible to preserve the brightness of RGB colors perfectly. Most editing programs and design tools have this option, for example:

  1. Photoshop, click Image> Mode> CMYK Color.
  2. Illustrator, click File> Document Color Mode> CMYK Color.

If you do not have any of these programs at your disposal, and you want to carry out a printing project with our services, our experts will be in charge of helping you and making the necessary conversion of the colors as accurately as possible. You don’t have to worry about anything!


After having learned everything about CMYK colors and the differences that exist between other color systems, we hope that you will be able to carry out your projects more efficiently since they are not simple things and it is necessary to understand them well so that the results of your impressions are appropriate.

At Open Print, we will always be open to solving any problem or doubt that may arise when sending us your files or documents for printing. Don’t be afraid to contact us. You will not regret it!


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