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Marketing Ideas Centre / 7. Color Kitchen & Tips /
RGB and CMYK- the difference
Author Message
# - Edited by: bronwyn

Color Processes

RGB (red, green, blue)- are screen colors (TV, Computers, Moblie Phones etc)

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black)- are print colors (ink, digital printing, fabrics, powders)

Have you ever wondered why on the screen the colors looks so bright and luminious, but when you print out the page, the colors look drab or murky?

This is becuase the file has been printed in RGB.

If you change your file to CMYK, you can achieve the closest match to the screen as possible, thus enhancing your print 100 fold!


Cmyk and RGB differences

When designing your artwork in color, it's ok to do so in a rgb mode. However, if you want to send the work for any professional printing, most cases will be produced in CMYK mode.

To alter your designs, in Photoshop choose > Image > Mode > CMK Color

You will notice the colors change.

This is because Ink is to be used. Ink and computers screen colors are worlds apart.

Each of the colored 's' in this diagram has been originally created in RGB, then converted to CMYK to best represent ink.

RGB to CMYK color conversion help

Tip: Orange is difficult to achieve because the mix is Yellow and Magenta. Typically orange is a mix of yellow and red. The magenta changes the light reflect value.

I'll put a posting in the color kitchen of good looking orange colors. Other colors may change slightly so I'll add those too.


CMYK and RGB Photo Considerations

Printing in CMYK is great for photos and is better. The color ranges of each pixel are greater than RGB. RGB is 255 channels each. CMYK is millions so providing your original photo has been well taken and focused, it will look superb.

One thing to consider is the created background. If you add a special background or panel etc. What you see on screen may be slightly different to the final printing process.

CMYK Photo Comparison to RGB

This picture shows the strawberry looks amazing on both vesions. The right side shot background is slightly different to screen view because of reasons above.

What can you do about it... not much, this is amazing technology as it is. Just remember to design and change over to CMYK before burning your CD so that you can make any color changes.


Also see this post - Tiny Text Considerations Well done.


Go to this post for good looking digital oranges and blues.

Just use your color picker to determine values. It's from a job produced that everyone liked.


Converting RGB Files to CMYK

There are colors you may see in RGB that cannot be made with CMYK. They are considered by the translator as "out of the CMYK color gamut" and the translator comes as close as possible to matching the original. While this may be less noticeable in an image, it is more noticeable for colors used in type or solid color areas. Therefore, we recommend you select colors for fonts or other design elements in the layout using CMYK definitions. This will give you a better idea of how your printed pieces will look.

Following is a list of several common design and publishing programs with instructions on how to make sure you are working in the CMYK color space.


Microsoft Publisher
Microsoft Publisher defaults to RGB. To convert or start a document in a CMYK color space use the following menu options: Tools > Commercial Printing Tools > Color Printing and select > Process colors (CMYK).

Please note that all images incorporated into a layout need to be linked, not embedded, in order to maintain the CMYK color space within the image.
You can accomplish this by following these menu options: Tools > Commercial Printing Tools > Graphics Manager and highlight the embedded image. Click Link and click Browse to locate the original file and link to it. Don't forget to send us both the images and the layout file.
Publisher is not a preferred program we use often. It has othe inherrent problems for digital and signmaking. You will also need to send the fonts (unzipped) in a folder named 'fonts'.


Adobe Photoshop
For an existing file, select the following menu options:
Image > Mode >CMYK.
When starting a new file, select CMYK for the mode before clicking OK. Set your resolution to 150dpi or above.


Use the following menu options to convert or create files with CMYK: Edit > Edit Colors > Show Colors in Use > Highlight Color and click Edit. Change model to CMYK and deselect Spot color.


Adobe Illustrator
For an existing file, select the following menu options:
Edit > Select All and then > Filter > Colors > Convert to CMYK.
For a new file, select File > New and select CMYK color for the Color Mode.


Corel Draw
Select each object you want to convert. Select the Fill tool and click Fill Color Dialog.

Make sure the Color model is CMYK.

For each object with an outline, select the Outline tool and click the Outline Color Dialog. Make sure the Color model is CMYK.

Learn to draw without outlines by using the Contour Tool OR, when you doc is finished, ensure that you convert to curves.


Adobe InDesign
For new or existing documents, use the following menu options: Window > Swatches and Window > Color. Double click color in Swatches Change color mode to CMYK and color type to Process. Any colors created in the document that are not in the Swatches palette need to be changed to the CMYK color space as well. Select each object you want to convert and make sure the Color palette reflects the CMYK percentages.

Click the top right arrow in the palette to change to CMYK if necessary.


Adobe PageMaker
Use the following menu options: Window > Show Colors. Double click "Colors" in palette and select Model to be CMYK and Type to be Process. Please note that PageMaker does not successfully represent CMYK color on the monitor.

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