CMYK vs. RGB Color Scale

Arguably one of the most important aspects of signage and branding is color. Without it, signs can be boring and one dimensional. Color is all around us, but you may have noticed that sometimes a color looks different on the screen than it does when it gets printed. It’s important to understand how color works and explore the two important color modes.


CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and a “Key” color (black). All colors are created using a combination of those colors. The colors are similar to what you remember from your elementary school art class. These colors are subtractive which means they absorb light rather than reflect. The more color you add – the closer to black the original color gets! CMYK is used for anything that’s printed. Business cards, posters, signs, newspapers, books, etc. all use CMYK. CMYK colors are represented in percentages from 0-100%. These number percentages tell the printer how much percent of a color to mix to create the desired color.


RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. All of the colors are created use a combination of red, green, and blue light. RGB is an additive color which means they use light reflection. RGB Color Mode is used for anything that is light-based. Televisions, computer monitors, cameras, and even iPhones use RGB. RGB codes are represented with a number between 0 – 255 for each red, green, and blue.

What do we use at Signarama Louisville East?

All of our printers in our shop use the CMYK color processes however we can provide a color matching service, in which we take the Pantone color you’d like to use and convert it into a printable CMYK color.

How do I know if my print ready files include the CMYK color mode?

If you or your company use Adobe Illustrator or InDesign, use the following steps:

  • Select “File”
  • Click on “Document Color Mode”
  • “RGB Mode” and “CMYK Mode” will be displayed to the right. You can easily switch out the color mode by selecting one of the modes.

If you or your company use Adobe Photoshop, use the following steps:

  • Select “Image” on the toolbar
  • Click on “Mode”
  • Select the “CMYK” or “RGB mode” and a check mark will appear by the mode selected.

Is there really a difference in the color option mode?

Yes! Sometimes drastic color differences can be seen (see the following image for an example). Always make sure to use CMYK mode for all printing purposes!

Want to Learn More About Our Sign Services? Contact us below.  

Signarama Louisville East is a full service Louisville sign company that specializes in manufacturing small and large outdoor business signs in Louisville KY – all in-house! We work with small and large businesses as well as national companies on total re-branding. Advertise your business with the best in vinyl banners, monument signs, custom cabinet signschannel letter signs and more!

Check out a list of our sign services and schedule your FREE site survey with one of our professional project managers. Call Signarama Today!