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The guide to RGB and CMYK for printing

When designing anything for print, you need to tick many things off your list including the size, type of paper, the binding and who is going to print it. Another thing that is extremely important is the colour mode you use when designing, because if you get this wrong, it can result in colours that don’t look true-to-life once printed.
 
Designing for the web is different as colours are quite consistent across all computers, so you don’t need to be as specific as with print. Knowing the difference between the colour modes RGB and CMYK will prevent mistakes from happening and enable you to know when you should be using them.
 
We’re here to share with you the differences between RGB and CMYK to ensure you don’t make the mistake that many others have before you send it to print. We want our clients to be thrilled when they see their designs in physical form, not surprised by the colour difference. So, what are RGB and CMYK? 
 
 
 CMYK vs RGB
 
RGB
 
RGB stands for three colours – red, green and blue. These three colours are then mixed to create the colours you see on your screen. This colour mode is most often used with computer monitors and other electronic displays as it can offer such a vast colour selection. Many editing programmes use RGB as standard, such as Photoshop, so you need to be careful if printing and convert the colour to CMYK.
 
CMYK
 
CMYK is the colour mode used by most professional printing companies. This mode is made up of four colours – cyan, magenta, yellow and black. It works in a completely different way from RGB as the CMYK mode works from adding colours together and absorbing or removing light to create varying shades.
 
What happens when you print an RGB design using a CMYK printing process?
 
If the colours have not been properly converted for the printing process, they will appear differently than on the screen. Typically, RGB colours will look more vibrant on screen and when printed using CMYK process they will seem flat and duller.
 
Should I design using RGB or CMYK?
 
It all depends on what you’re designing, however you can convert between the colour modes. As a rule, RGB is best for digital and CMYK for print. Most people will design in RGB as it will give them more freedom with colours and then convert their finished project to CMYK before sending it to be printed.
 
How do I convert RGB to CMYK?
 
Converting the colour mode of your design is a straightforward process that takes no time at all. If you are using Photoshop, select image, mode and the mode you want to convert to. You may find the colours look very slightly different especially the blue and green shades. It’s also to remember that if you are importing images they are likely to be RGB so will need converting too in Photoshop!
 
More useful design tips you can find in our Artwork Guide.
 
If you would like more information about colour modes and how to convert your design, get in touch with our friendly team! Alternatively, if you’re not able to prepare the artwork or design yourself, our design team can help you bring your ideas to life.   
 

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