How To

CMYK Printing Explained

What you need to know about CMYK and RGB

Here at Digital Insight Printing one of the constant challenges we face in the printing world is how to get the "printed" image to most closely resemble the image that our clients are used to seeing at home on their computer monitors.  This is a real trick, and here is why.The image you are used to seeing on your computer screen is ALWAYS going to look a bit different when it is printed.  Think about it.....you are used to seeing it through a glowing, back lit, glass screen.  Now you will be seeing your images printed on a flat sheet of paper.  Light is being absorbed by the paper instead of being "projected" through the screen towards your eyes.A general rule is that the image you see printed on paper will always appear a bit "darker" than it does on your computer screen.  The next issue we need to tackle is CMYK vs. RGB.Many graphics software programs give you the choice to work in either RGB or CMYK. These are called "color spaces". Scanners and digital cameras create images using combinations of just three colors: Red, Green and Blue (called "RGB").  Printing presses print "full color" pictures using a different set of colors, the primary colors of pigment: Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Black (called "CMYK"). This is "4-color process" or "full-color" printing that comprises the majority of magazines and marketing materials you see every day. At some stage your RGB file must be translated to CMYK in order for it to be printed.


It's Best If You do the RGB-to-CMYK Conversion of Your Images.

You will have more control over the final appearance of your printed piece if you convert all of the images from RGB to CMYK before sending them to us for printing. If we receive an RGB image, it will be converted using standard-value conversion to CMYK, which may not be exactly to your liking. We always want happy customers, so please, take the time to prepare your file properly before sending it out for printing. We cannot be responsible for sub-par results if you furnish your images in RGB. Even though computer monitors always use RGB to display colors, the colors you see on your monitor will more closely match the final printed piece if you are viewing them in the CMYK color space.


IMPORTANT: It is possible to see colors in RGB that you can't make with CMYK.

They are said to be "out of the CMYK color gamut". What happens is that the RGB-to-CMYK translator just gets as close as possible to the appearance of the original and that's as good as it can be. It's something that everyone in the industry puts up with. So it's best to select any colors you use for fonts or other design elements in your layout using CMYK definitions instead of RGB. That way, you will have a better idea of how they will appear in your printed piece.


How to convert to CMYK:

This is a list of several common design and printing programs with instructions on how to make sure that you are working in the CMYK mode. If your program or version is not listed here, no biggie. Most of these instructions will generally apply to all versions of a program.
Adobe Photoshop
(Our favorite pick here at Digital Insight Printing)
If the file already exists select the following menu options: Image/Mode/CMYK When starting a new file select CMYK for the mode before clicking OK.
Adobe InDesign
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. Select each object you want to convert and make sure the Color palette reflects the CMYK percentages. Click top right arrow in the palette to change to CMYK if necessary. Remember to send us your layout and linked images!
Corel Draw 11
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.
Adobe Illustrator
Select File/Document color mode/CMYK color
Microsoft Publisher 2000
Microsoft Publisher defaults to RGB. It is easy to convert everything to a CMYK color space or to start a new document using the 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 and not embedded in order to maintain the CMYK color 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 Color Model, then Select Process Colors (CMYK)
Quark Xpress 4.1
Use the following menu options: Edit/Edit Colors/Show Colors in Use/Highlight Color and click Edit. Change model to CMYK and deselect Spot color. Remember to send us your layout and linked images!
Adobe Pagemaker 6.5
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 be advised that Pagemaker does not successfully represent CMYK color on the monitor.

General rule-of-thumb is ALWAYS remember that the image you see on your screen at home may look different once it is printed on paper. Here at Digital Insight Printing, we are happy to print a SAMPLE for you if you have any concerns about how your image might translate once it hits paper.  Just ask!  You can send us your sample image via our UPLOAD option here: Artwork Upload


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