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Tips n Tricks

CMYK and RGB and why it matters

When you create a project for printing, it’s recommended you change RGB to CMYK to avoid potential colour accuracy issues.

The vast majority of printers for both home and commercial use employ a different colour model from electronic display devices such mobile device screens and computer monitors.

Many graphics software programs give you the choice to work in either RGB or CMYK. These are called “colour spaces”.

Scanners and digital cameras create images using combinations of just three colours: Red, Green and Blue (called “RGB”). These are the primary colours of light, which computers use to display images on your screen.

Printing presses print full colour pictures using a different set of colours, the primary colours of pigment: Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Black (called “CMYK”). This is “4 colour process” or “full-colour” printing that comprises the majority of magazines and marketing materials you see every day.

What happens if we don’t change RGB to CMYK before printing?

If you don’t change RGB to CMYK before you print, your printer will automatically make the switch. The problem with this automated change is that you will not get to see an approximation of the end product until you get your final print, which can lead to an unpleasant surprise. This can be important for businesses that use specific colours as part of their branding.

Be aware that it is possible to see colours in RGB that you can’t make with CMYK.

They are said to be “out of the CMYK colour gamut”. What happens is that the RGB-to-CMYK conversion gets as close as possible to the appearance of the original and that’s as good as it can be.

You most likely won’t notice this dramatic colour shift in a photograph.

It is more likely to happen if you pick a very rich, vibrant colour for a background or some other element of your layout. It probably won’t look bad, it just won’t look exactly the same.

If your design app allows it, it’s best to start any print project in CMYK, so colour shifts will be easier to deal with. Converting at the end of your project can result in dramatic changes that will take more time to fix. But in any case, it’s always best to set your file as CMYK before sending it in for printing.

Converting to the CMYK Colour Space

Here is a list of several common programs with instructions on how to make sure you are working in the CMYK colour space. If your program or version is not listed here, don’t worry. Most of these instructions will apply to all versions of a program.

If at any time you need further help, please call us for assistance. We are happy to talk you through the steps needed to get your document into the CMYK colour space.

Adobe InDesign

Open the swatches panel located under the window menu. In the swatches panel, double click on each colour listed, and change the colour mode to CMYK and colour type to Process.

Any colours created in the document that are not in the swatches palette, need to be changed to the CMYK colour space, by selecting each object you need to convert, and make sure the colour palette (Window > Colour) reflects the CMYK percentages. Click the top right arrow in the palette to change to CMYK if necessary.

All images and object placed into the InDesign file, need to be converted to CMYK in their native application (eg. Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator).

Adobe Illustrator

Select File/Document colour mode/CMYK colour. Select all object and go to Edit > Edit Colours and click on ‘Convert to CMYK.’

Adobe Photoshop

If the file already exists select the following menu options: Image > Mode > CMYK.

When creating a new file, select CMYK for the mode before clicking OK.

Adobe Pagemaker

Use the following menu options: Window/Show Colours. Double click “colours” in palette and select Model to be CMYK and Type to be Process. Please be advised that Pagemaker does not successfully represent CMYK colour on the monitor.

Microsoft Publisher 2000

Microsoft Publisher defaults to RGB. It is easy to convert everything to a CMYK colour space or to start a new document using the CMYK colour space.

Use the following menu options: Tools > Commercial Printing Tools > Colour Printing and select Process colours (CMYK). Please note that all images incorporated into a layout need to be linked and not embedded in order to maintain the CMYK colour space within the image.

Using the following menu options does this: 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. You will then need to send both the images and the layout file to us for printing.

Microsoft Publisher 2003-2007 or later

Select File Tab, then select Info. Select Commercial Print Settings. Select Choose Colour Model, then Select Process Colours (CMYK).

Corel Draw

Select each object you want to convert. Select the Fill tool and click Fill Colour Dialog. Make sure the Colour model is CMYK. For each object with an outline: Select the Outline tool and click the Outline Colour Dialog. Make sure the Colour model is CMYK.

Quark Xpress

Use the following menu options: Edit > Edit Colours > Show Colours in Use/Highlight Colour and click Edit. Change model to CMYK and deselect Spot colour.

The following programs do not have the capability to convert to CMYK. No worry, we will convert it for you free of charge!

  • Adobe Photoshop LE
  • Adobe PhotoDeluxe
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Powerpoint
  • Microsoft Works
  • Microsoft PhotoDraw
  • Picture It Publishing

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Let's discuss how we can work together on your next print project,
or request an information sample pack

Let's discuss how we can work together on your next print project, or request an information sample pack