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The 411 on RGB vs. CMYK

Recently, we had a client question why their prints didn't quite match the color they'd set up in their document. This can be a complex issue, but many times it comes down to one thing...the document used colors that were spec'd as RGB (red, green and blue), rather than CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Red, Green, and Blue are the "additive colors ": combine red, green and blue light, and you get white light. Cyan, Magenta and Yellow are "subtractive colors" - if you print cyan, magenta and yellow inks on paper, they ought to absorb all the light shown on them. Your eye receives no reflected light from the paper, and perceives black... in theory. In practice, printing inks contain impurities that prevent them from absorbing light perfectly. They do a pretty good job with light colors, but when you add them all together, they produce a murky brown rather than black. In order to get decent dark colors, black ink is added in increasing proportions, as the color gets darker and darker. An image that is in RGB mode is optimized for display on a computer monitor. In order to reproduce that very same image using ink on paper, it must be converted to the "CMYK" color mode. As a general rule, when designing for print, always choose colors in CMYK mode. You'll have much greater color predictability and consistency. Confused? Wondering how to best set up your project to get the colors you had imagined? Don't worry, we're here to help. Give us a call at (440) 835-6540.

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