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CMYK versus RGB: The colors of your custom label

cmyk vs rgb custom label

Color theory is mind blowing in a cool way and somewhat technical. Knowing the differences and importance of the CMYK vs RGB color spectrums is super helpful when it comes to creating artwork for your custom label. This knowledge will help ensure that the colors you’d like to see on your printed label will be just that.

If you’re new to designing your artwork, or new to printing with us, science, the technical part, and a little magic, the cool part, awaits!



RGB stands for red, green, blue; simple, straightforward, I like it. RGB is the color spectrum or range of colors you can see on computer monitors and displays. They are also additive colors. Add different amounts and combinations of R, G, and B together, other colors are created. Hang with me now because this is where is gets cool: If R, G, and B are added together, white is the color created. But where does the white come from? Remember, how we talked about RGB being the official color sponsor of computer monitors? Well, the white is actually light. The light emitted through the computer screen allows you to see the RGB colors that you do. With the combo of these colors, the light becomes the white. So what about black? Turn off your monitor. No, light, no color. Black.
Now that’s magic.




CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black); short and sweet, I like it. CMYK is the color spectrum or range of colors you will see on your printed label, the inks. C, M, Y, and K are known as subtractive colors. Think of these colors as paints or inks; it’s what we print with.
This might be worth mentioning, but to see the color of these inks, a light needs to be on (a light bulb, the sun, etc).
With this in mind, if you have a little palette of C, M, and Y inks, and start wildly mixing them together, you’ll come up with a murky, darkish brown color. Only by adding key will all the colors turn from murky brown to black.
How does the black do this? Because the black ink is absorbing all the colors. A color of ink exists because of it’s chemical makeup plus a light source. Green ink, which is a combo of yellow and cyan, is seen because of the light reflecting off the surface of the ink. All colors of visible spectrum (what colors our eyes can detect) are absorbed except the mix of cyan and the yellow which is reflected back to our eyes as green.
Keeping it basic, what you see is what you get. Whatever color ink you are looking at bounces back at you; all the other colors in that visible spectrum are absorbed (subtracted).

Now that’s one mind-blowing game of scientific tennis.





Most every printer and here at Frontier Label, we print in CMYK. With our new discoveries at hand, we’ve uncovered that RGB is from the light world of computer screens and monitors, and CMYK is from the physical world of inks. This simply means all artwork must be in CMYK to print.
If you’ve already built your custom label artwork in CMYK, great! You’re ready to go!
But what if you’re artwork is built in RGB? Not a problem, but here are a few things to keep in mind. RGB is mostly used for web deign; you’ll be able to achieve brighter colors and neons simply because of that broader color spectrum of light. Our team converts the artwork to CMYK before printing. The colors may shift or change when converted. Most of the time, it won’t be drastic or noticeable, but the brighter colors or neons which can be achieved on screen, will appear less intense when printed.
To ensure there are no surprises when you receive your custom label order for yourself or a client, create your artwork in CMYK. It will depend on which program you are using, but this can be adjusted in the document setup.


This is a lot of awesome science and knowledge you can use when designing and creating. Color helps us describe who we are and makes statements bolder than words. Here at Frontier, we want to make sure your custom label has a look that turns heads and quality you are proud of. If you have any questions whatsoever, give us a call. We are a people who want to help. If you are new to design work or need assistance with gathering a quote or placing an order, we are here for you.
And just think, if you ever end up at a nerd party, you can use all this color talk as a conversation starter.

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