Printing Basics Part 2 – CMYK vs RGB

cmyk vs rgbb
Understanding the basics of color is not difficult. In fact, following a couple of simple rules will ensure quality printing consistently.

Firstly, you need to understand that what you see on the screen may not always be what you get in real life. When viewing images on a computer, we are viewing RGBvsCMYK images in RGB color mode. That roughly means that we are using three basic colors – red, green and blue – to create everything that you see on the screen – just like in the color palettes we were first introduced to as kids in art class.

In many printing processes – not all, but many – we use a process called CMYK. Cyan, magenta, yellow and black (the K in CMYK) make up the CMYK process and allow for printing pieces to retain the colors from their digital design incredibly accurately. All that is needed is to understand how to properly set up your document’s color mode.


Some printing processes do not utilize CMYK or RGB color modes. For example, printing in grayscale will only use black ink and screen printing requires color separation, which is the process of creating separate layers for each color used in a design.

What CMYK does is use halftoning to create complex colors that utilize different amounts of each color, respectively. If you have ever looked at a magazine with a magnifying glass or microscope, you will see that everything is made of tiny little dots. Therefore using halftoning, any image can be replicated with great accuracy.


Now that you understand what is happening in the printing process a little better, let us show you how simple it is to actually take what you have on your computer screen and make sure that the colors aren’t comprised and changed when you bring it into real life.

If you are starting your design from scratch, the first thing you want to do is make sure that your color mode is set to CMYK and not RGB. In Photoshop, simply go to Image and then Color Mode and set to CMYK. This will ensure that your printed document will look exactly as you see it on screen.

If you have already created a design in RGB color mode, you will need to convert it to CMYK using the same process, going to Image and then Color Mode and set to CMYK. If your image looks exactly as you want it to color wise – then that’s it! You are ready to export and send to the printer. If you see any shift in color, you will need to adjust the color of these elements individually until they look good in CMYK color mode. For the most part, it’s as easy as selecting the closest color as what you originally had. However, some colors do not translate well from RGB to CMYK, and we will talk about that in the next installment of our printing basics guide.





Category: Printing