RGB vs. CMYK: A Quick Color Code Guide to Color Formats

Color plays a crucial part in label design, but identifying the right hues involves more than just picking out your preferred shades or red and blue. Both RGB and CMYK color formats allow you to identify the colors you want to use in your design. However, RGB and CMYK are not interchangeable. As such, it’s important to know how both color formats work, and which one is best for your design needs in this CMYK and RGB color guide.

The Differences Between RGB and CMYK

What is RGB?

RGB is an additive system that uses varying intensities of red, green, and blue to create color on a digital screen. Essentially, RGB colors begin as a true shade of black. Users can then use a process called additive mixing – adding degrees of red, green, and blue light on top of that black – to create a specific pigment.

Different colors are made by playing with the intensity levels of each base color. For example, cerulean blue is comprised of 16.5 percent red, 32.2 percent green, and 74.5 percent blue. When combined, they produce the specific color for your screen. However, if you were to combine equal intensities of red, green, and blue it would create a pure shade of white.

Label printing experts reviewing color options for a product.

What is CMYK?

While RGB is an additive system, CYMK utilizes subtractive mixing to create color with physical ink. With CMYK, the absence of ink is essentially “white,” although the surface you use can be white, black, clear, or any other color. As you add layers of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (also known as key) to that surface, the less white it gets. In opposition to RGB, all four colors in equal proportion create a pure shade of black.

Like RGB, CMYK also has color information for design programs. For example, that same shade of cerulean blue comprises of 77.9 percent cyan, 56.8 percent magenta, 0 percent yellow, and 25.5 percent black. However, it’s important to note that these colors are meant for physical printing and not digital screens, so what you see on screen may not be the same shade after your product is printed.

With either CMYK or RGB, it’s crucial to use color codes to guarantee results since colors can vary from screen to screen.

Label printing experts reviewing RGB vs CMYK color results.

RGB or CMYK: Which Should You Use?

The color format that’s best for your needs is dependent on a single question: what do you plan to do with your design? If your design will end up on digital screens like computer monitors or TVs, you should use RGB. If you need to physically print anything like product labels, brochures, or more, you should use CMYK.

Using the wrong format can lead to inaccurate color representations. This is particularly bad if you need to match your branding or if your heart is simply set on a specific color. Formats can be changed in design programs like Adobe Photoshop, which allows you to plug in the appropriate color code for your design’s end purpose.

Another reason it’s important to use the correct color format is to avoid art file issues when you’re sending your design to a vendor. For example, if you’re sending your art file to a printer and they have to convert your file from RBG to CMYK, your printed design may appear faded as compared to the original RGB image. There’s also a chance that the printer may not be able to exactly match your color. Fortunately, there is way to call out your colors to help ensure an exact match: The Pantone Matching System.

While RGB and CMYK colors give you rough approximations of colors, Pantone has physical color swatches that allow you to visually confirm which color is right and provides you with the proper formula. This system allows printers to identify exact colors, including if that hue should be coated or uncoated, to see if they can provide an exact match with their existing printing technology. This can help ensure consistent, vibrant colors while adding some reassurance that both parties are on the same page.

Work with a Printing Company That Help Your Colors Pop

Need to find the right label printing company for your product labels? At Blue Label, our experts work with you to guide you through the printing process, from ensuring your colors are correct to identifying ways to provide the best label for both your performance needs and budget. Contact Blue Label today to talk to one of our experts about full-color label printing for your next project.

The Benefits of 7-Color Printing for Labels

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that color is crucial for packaging, but it may be even more important than you expect. The right use of colors is a signal to buyers about your brand’s personality. There’s also the fact that 90 percent of consumers make snap judgments about products solely based on their color. Your product labels communicate with buyers before people even read any of the words, so it’s imperative that they look great for that important first impression.

Unfortunately, your perfect color scheme may not make the impact you want without the right color printing process. Certain printers may not have the technology or range of inks to recreate your specific colors. Fortunately, 7-color process labels allow you to avoid many of these issues without having to pay extra for spot colors. Here’s how.

A digital printing machine making 7-color process labels.

7-Color Label Printing Gives You Access to More Colors

Digital printing uses four base colors, also known as CMYK – cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (key). These original four colors can only account for 55 percent of the Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors. That’s not a comforting number if you’re set on a specific hue, which is why the 7-color process adds violet and orange or green to the original four. These extra three ink colors allow printers to achieve up to 98 percent of the Pantone spectrum.

7-Color Label Printing Makes Your Colors Look More Vibrant

Another advantage of the 7-color process is that it gives you access to Extended Gamut color formulas. Essentially, this means that you have access to colors that are cleaner, brighter, and more saturated than what you may be able to achieve through the standard 4-color process. This is very important for if you want that extra-vibrant green, purple, or some other shade to really pop on your label without having to spend extra on spot colors.

7-Color Label Printing is Digital

Since the 7-color process is done digitally, it means that you can still take advantage of all the benefits of digital printing while improving your color options. Not only does 7-color printing allow you to achieve more vibrant labels, you can also get them quicker than you would with printing methods that require plates. That lack of plates means no setup and better turnaround times for label proof or finished products. Digital color printing also gives you additional flexibility for your orders, whether you only want to commit to a smaller run or want to combine multiple SKUs into a single order.

Multiple custom 7-color process labels on a table.

Make Your Labels Stand Out Through 7-Color Printing

You should never have to settle for bland colors that don’t fit your brand. Thanks to our investment in the 7-color process and state-of-the-art digital printing technology, Blue Label can work with you to make sure your labels look just right for your products. Contact us today to talk to one of our experts about you next label project.

Minimalist Design Trends for Product Labels

The minimalist movement is making its way into label design as more brands are forgoing flashy and opting for simple. You’ve surely heard the phrase, “less is more,” which can be especially true when it comes to the design of your product and bottle labels.

A minimalist’s mantra is to remove the unnecessary. In an era of information overload, brands are realizing that customers appreciate minimal labeling. It’s an effective trend that works because of its simplicity. (more…)

How Light Can Impact the Way Customers See Your Product Labels

The right color palette is an important part of any product label. Between maintaining a recognizable brand and using color psychology, designers work hard to determine which color or colors will help attract a targeted audience. Unfortunately, one easily overlooked detail can derail the perfect design: light.

From Screen to Product Packaging: How to Make Sure a Label Design will Work in Print

A great label design may look great on a screen, but it won’t mean much if it doesn’t look good in print. Fortunately, there are some steps that you can take to make sure that your design translates to print. Here are some important product packaging design considerations to keep in mind when creating a design for a product label.

Five Common Label Mistakes

Label design isn’t easy. There’s no question about it, some projects are more complex than others, but every project is complex and requires attention to detail. A reliable and experienced printer will definitely reduce the likelihood of making a mistake, but even the best printer can’t spot every mistake. We’ve compiled a list of five common label mistakes, what causes them, and how they can be prevented. Hopefully this makes your life a little easier.


Label Consistency

Designing a good label is hard. It takes a good concept, an understanding of the technical applications, a good designer, and a printer that can get it all right. But here’s the scary thing, even if you do everything right to create a great label, you could still end up with boxes full of useless packaging. Why? Consistency. Just because a label was right one time doesn’t mean it will be the next. Really, you might be thinking, in the age of the iPhone and Netflix, printers still haven’t figured out how to make labels look the same every time? Well, the answer to that is that some have and some haven’t, and you need to be able to tell the difference. The difference is the process they are using to create the label. Flexographic is an analog process that requires a lot of judgment and ‘eyeballing’ whereas digital printing is, well, digital. Here are the main areas digital printing can help maintain label consistency: