Why is RGB generally used for monitors and CMYK for printing?

Why is RGB generally used for monitors and CMYK for printing?

Behold the simplified scheme of visible colors:

Actually, these are just their brightest levels.
Imagine, there are also darker gradations of it.

Monitors and displays work with emitting light,
coming from vast arrays of small light diodes:

(Spit a bit on your screen, and you'll see them !)

To show images, they use three base colors: RGB.
The more you mix them, the brighter a color gets:

Now printing requires inks, which are the opposite.
Millions of tiny ink dots compose an image, like this:

Inks block light, so the more inks, the darker it gets.
They are the opposite of RGB, or in between: CMY:

There you have it.

That "K" in CMYK is a method to save redundant ink.
It stands for black ink, replacing an equal mix of CMY.
Just like you use a white light, in stead of R, G, and B.

Beware, CMY inks can't be as bright as RGB light !
So you lose some brilliance, and the brightest whites:

Only special inks (like Pantone) can compensate this.
But let's not get into these more complex matters...

And don't be shocked when you see this stuff:

That's just the more scientific shape for the scheme,
showing the ranges of certain devices (e.g. printers).

Hope this helps !

More info: Color space - Wikipedia

Why is RGB generally used for computer monitors and CMYK used for printing? "


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