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Colour Models

Colours used in graphics are based on a particular model. The model you pick depends on the range of colours you need in a graphic and whether it is going to be output to print media or to screen. There are various colour models available. Some of these are:

  • Black & white
  • Greyscale
  • RGB - Red, Green and Blue
  • CMYK - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black
  • Lab - Luminance, 'a' & 'b' stand for chrominance
  • HSB - Hue, Saturation & Brightness. Other similar models are:
    • HSL, where L stands for Lightness,
    • HSV, where V stands for 'brightness Value' and
    • HCV, where C stands for Chroma and V for Value.
  • Indexed
  • Web safe

Print media such as magazines, leaflets and posters can use the CMYK, Greyscale and Lab colour models. The Lab colour model isn't as commonly used.

Graphics that are going to be displayed on screen use the RGB or HSB/HSL/HSV colour models. There is also the YUV and YCC models which are used for TVs.

RGB and CYMK are the most common colour models used for graphics. RGB is known as the primary colour model. Any device that uses light to display graphics eg TVs, film projectors, computer monitors, used the RGB colour model.

When combinations of pure red, green and blue are applied, they produce either Cyan, Magenta or Yellow. CMYK is therefore known as the secondary colour model, as it is created from the primary colour model.

Next: RGB