Search's Blog

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

: : CMYK vs. RGB : : Let's get ready to rumble!

You ponder this question after having finished color correcting and printing your friend’s digital photo. It's one he took of you on a cliff with a beautiful sunset and bright green trees with a professional level digital SLR. It should be perfect for print…right? "I had it sent out to a professional printer and it looks nothing like it does on the computer monitor! The colors should be much more vibrant and the contrast is off. It couldn’t be the camera! I did color correct it!" Most likely, you forgot to work in CMYK rather than in RGB.

First off, what is RGB? Well my friend, RGB is an additive color module that means full intensities of red, green, and blue will make a white and subtracting them will get you black. Monitors and televisions all output in RGB. In fact, all optical devices do. Scanners, webcams, and many other input devices that pick up visual information are processed in that. RGB colors look extremely vibrant on screen, which is something that the CMYK color module cannot produce.

CMYK: it stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (if they used B for Black instead of K, it could be confused with Blue). This is a subtractive color module (as opposed to RGB’s additive color module), that means that when you subtract the colors away from each other, you get white. CMYK is what is used in the printing physical, hard copies of images as these 4 colors work together to simulate a wide range of other colors but there is still a range of colors that it cannot produce.

Now back to the problem. Doing your work in CMYK for anything that will be printed is the best way to guarantee the color accuracy you need. But how do you work in CMYK? It’s quite simple, even a monkey like myself can do it. In Photoshop, just click on Image, Mode, then on CMYK mode. When you select it, you might not notice a huge shift in color, but now, you will know what the results will look like color wise with every tweak that you do.

Now don’t be scared about working in RGB as it does have a purpose! Creating anything that will be viewed on a computer monitor or television will benefit from it as it can produce really vibrant colors. If you did this with CMYK and viewed it on a TV or monitor, the results might look very dull over RGB.

Now these steps should be effective to get you the color results you need, but also consult your printshop. Some might have you set up Photoshop a certain way with your color spaces so that when you submit the file to them, it works well with their printing equipment.

Feel free to contact the folks at with questions.

Have an Oooo  ahahh ahahatastic day!
- Melissa the Purple Hued Primate 

Online Printing. Custom Printed Envelopes. Graphic Design.

Coming Next Week: A quick way to color correct! 

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