RGB vs. CMYK

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Published on December 26, 2016 12:01 am
RGB vs. CMYK

In printing, it is very important that all files that are designed using the CMYK colorspace. If they are designed in the RGB colorspace, the result may not come out as expected. Designing files in CMYK ensures your colors will match your monitor.

RGB (red, green blue) is a representation of the emittance of light. When these colors are combined, they form white. This is analogous to an actual light spectrum, where if you combine all the colors of natural light, such as the colors in a rainbow, white light is the result. Displays use the emittance of light to create colors, thus the RGB colorspace. This is why most computer programs have RGB as the default when designing files.

With actual printing, ink and toner does not accurately represent the natural emittance of light. Since colors come from non-light sources, they are really observed by the absorption of light. A new colorspace was needed to represent that spectrum of color. Thus, CYMK (cyan, yellow, magenta, black) was created. This colorspace represents the absorption of light. When all the primary colors are combined, they form black, which is the absorption of all light.

The reason why RGB designs printed in CYMK don’t look the same is because the CYMK colorspace does not include all the colors in the spectrum that RGB includes. It can sometimes be impossible for certain colors that can be displayed on monitors to actually get printed on a sheet of paper, which is why sometimes the colors change and are not printed properly. If you already designed your file in RGB and you switch to CYMK, you may notice some of the colors have changed on your screen. Always remember to start your design with the CYMK to eliminate the possibility of any problems with any color mismatch from display to print.

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