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Design Colours for Print: RGB, CMYK, and Inkthreadable's Tech
Design Colours for Print: RGB, CMYK, and Inkthreadable's Tech

New to designing for print? This friendly guide explains RGB, CMYK, and how to pick colours that will look amazing on your printed products.

Updated over a week ago

You work hard to create awesome designs, and we want to ensure they look their best in print!
While digital screens show a huge range of colours, getting that same vibrancy in physical prints can be tricky.

Here's a breakdown of printable colours, how our colour gamuts work, and a special note on Inkthreadable's print technology.

πŸ“ This guide offers great colour insights, but be aware that a colour may print differently on products depending on texture, material colour, and more.

To ensure your printed colours turn out exactly as you imagined, we recommend ordering a sample whenever colour accuracy is key to your project.

🎨 What's the difference between RGB and CMYK?

  • RGB is how your monitor displays colour - it uses Red, Green, and Blue light. Screens are super-bright, so they offer some crazy-vivid colours that can't always be printed.

  • CMYK are the four channels that printers use to create colours. This stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black). These inks blend to make your colour mixes.

πŸ–¨οΈ Inkthreadable's Print Technology

Our Apparel Printing Power

Our Kornit DTG printers bring an extra boost for apparel! They go beyond standard CMYK with special inks for bold reds, vibrant greens, and crisp whites.

Our Mug & Poster Printing Power

Our sublimation and art print printers use CMYK technology for accurate and vibrant colour reproduction. This delivers a beautiful range of colours within the traditional printing spectrum.

πŸ€” Which Colour Mode To Design In?

You should design in sRGB mode at 300ppi – we'll handle the rest!

While you design in sRGB, our printers have the tech to translate your colours beautifully.

Our advanced processes ensure your colours come out as vibrant as possible, with the right adjustments for each printing method.

However, choosing CMYK-friendly colours within your sRGB design will help everything look even closer to what you expect.

Need more info about our file guidelines? Check out our full design file guidelines.

βœ… How to Pick Print-Friendly Colours For Your Designs

Even with our expanded colour options for apparel printing, a good grasp of CMYK basics gives you a solid foundation. This will help you create designs that translate beautifully into vibrant prints across all of our custom products.

The following charts are your go-to guide for picking predictable print colours.

🍎 Reds

Traditionally, reds can be tricky to nail in print. Too much magenta, and it goes pink, too much yellow, and it appears orange. Use this chart to find a red that prints true to your vision.


🌸 Pinks

Think pink! Magenta is the star of the show for pinks. This chart shows you how dialling up the magenta (and keeping everything else low) gives you a range of awesome pinks, from soft pastels to hot fuchsia.

🍊 Oranges and Browns

Orange you glad you found this chart? Start with a vibrant orange and use this guide to explore all the possibilities! Get creative and tweak those colour values to discover earthy browns, rusty tones, and everything in between.


πŸ’› Yellows

In printing, the key to bright yellows is purity. Start with a yellow that has little to no magenta or cyan mixed in. This gives you the most vibrant base to work with. Our Kornit printers love pure yellows, so experiment with bold yellow shades within your design software!


🍏 Greens

The secret to great greens is all about balance! Start with a bright yellow as your base. Then, carefully add in cyan – this is what subtracts red light and makes your yellow turn green. The more cyan you add, the deeper and cooler your green becomes.

Remember: With access to Kornit DTG printers for printed apparel, you have more room to explore green shades than with traditional CMYK printing, especially those leaning towards lime. Use this basic palette as a starting point, and experiment!


πŸ’§ Blues

Finding true blue: Getting the right blue in print can be challenging. This chart helps you balance cyan and magenta to land on that perfect sky blue, deep ocean, and all the shades in between.

🟣 Purples

Purple power! By blending magenta and cyan, you can achieve everything from violet to royal purple. However, purples can be tricky to get exactly right in print, so experimentation is key.

⚫ Blacks & Greys

There's more to this classic colour than meets the eye! Think of your CMYK's "K" (black) value like a volume dial. The higher you set it, the darker and more intense your black becomes.

Even small amounts of other CMYK colours can subtly shift your black's tone, creating cool blacks (with a hint of blue) and other variations that can be tricky to see on screen.

Remember, on screens black is the absence of light, but in print a combination of inks is used to achieve the darkest black. This makes it behave differently in print than it appears on screen.

Your Guide to Pastels, Metallics and Vibrant Colours

🎨 Pastel Colours

If you love pastels, be aware that they can be extra tricky to reproduce with DTG printing. This is because of the way the ink sits in the fabric, causing pastel colours to end up printing paler than they look in your design file.

For optimal results with DTG printing, try choosing brighter, more saturated versions of your favourite pastels with the expectation that they'll print lighter than they appear on screen.

✨ Shiny and Metallic

While true metallic effects aren't possible with our printing technology, we've got options! Thanks to the high level of detail our printers can achieve, you can add a touch of sparkle with a photo-realistic glitter overlay in your design file.

🌈 Bright Colours

CMYK can't quite reach the neon-levels of screen colours, but the combos in our chart will give you the most vibrant results possible with our printers.

πŸ“ Things to Remember

  • Your computer screen and home printer will often show different colours compared to our professional print process.

  • If super precise colours are important, consider ordering a sample print first to check what your customers will be receiving (sign up for our newsletter to receive 10% off one sample order up to Β£100 every single month).

  • Using black (K) to darken colours can make things look muddy. Start with small amounts and adjust carefully.

  • Design in RGB! Our printers will handle the conversions for maximum colour output.

Want to learn more about checking colours in designs you've already made? Check out this article.

Now you know everything you need to design colourful prints like a pro!

But if you're unsure about anything, feel free to reach out to the Inkthreadable team for more advice.

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