CMYK vs. RGB Color Profiles


March 18, 2020

We love seeing our client’s creativity. What we love even more is bringing that creativity to life in a large format installation for all to see! However, it isn’t just a matter of resizing a file to fit the space we’re applying it to, there are some specifications that can make or break the project if not met. We’ll cover the two main aspects that make a successful large format file and how these specifications create them in this two-part series. First step is to make sure graphics are represented as accurately as possible. Let’s compare the CMYK vs. RGB color profiles to understand why printing uses CMYK.

CMYK vs. RGB Color Creation

RGB is a projection of subtractive light. Similar to when you shine light through a prism it starts as white, but once light passes through the prism and shines out the other side, you typically see a rainbow effect of the light separating into its multiple colors. Your computer screen is a backlit RGB profile as it is light being projected through your monitor. Colors are mixed together by subtracting various shades of light.

CMYK is based on the days of press printing. Printing presses would have 4 plates: one cyan, one magenta, one yellow and one key plate that had the important information of the pressing. This is considered additive color; by adding more colors together or laid on top of each other to create a desired shade.

“Why don’t the colors match my computer screen?”

When you are setting up a file, switch from RGB to CMYK. D0 the colors seem less vibrant in CMYK than RGB? The CMYK profile attempts to account for the light not passing through the medium and shows less brightly, but will never be a perfect comparison between your screen and the medium you print on. Your first step prior to any editing should be to switch the color profile. This will assist in any color corrections with a more accurate representation from the start.

Now that your colors are set, you’re ready to set up for file size! Check out Part Two of this series (coming soon) and feel free to ask us any questions about an upcoming project by clicking here.