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Understanding color space

From: Print Production Fundamentals

Video: Understanding color space

You probably already know that RGB means red, green, blue. Those are the colors of light shining out of your color monitor. And you probably know that CMYK represents cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, the four process printing inks. But when is each appropriate? Is one right? Is one wrong? The illustration that you see on screen is showing you a comparison of what the human eye can see--that's the external color shape--versus what your monitor can show--that's the black triangle--versus what CMYK inks can image--and that's the little white dotted area.

Understanding color space

You probably already know that RGB means red, green, blue. Those are the colors of light shining out of your color monitor. And you probably know that CMYK represents cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, the four process printing inks. But when is each appropriate? Is one right? Is one wrong? The illustration that you see on screen is showing you a comparison of what the human eye can see--that's the external color shape--versus what your monitor can show--that's the black triangle--versus what CMYK inks can image--and that's the little white dotted area.

So you can see that there are some colors that can be shown on your monitor but can't be printed in CMYK. So what does that mean? Well, it means that you might get a little disappointment when you get your job back from the printer. But I think it's important to understand the process so that maybe you're prepared for what comes back from the printer. When you shoot a photograph with a digital camera, or you scan reflective art on a scanner, the image is stored in RGB. And you've seen the RGB color space is a fairly large one, so it can display vibrant range of colors and the CMYK Gamut is smaller.

But how can we tell what's going to happen to this image. Now we're probably losing a little bit of vibrance in video compression, but hopefully you'll still be able to see the difference. This is an RGB image, you can see in the little title tag here that it's an RGB image. How can we show ourselves on screen what might happen when it goes to the printer? Well, we have a preview function called Proof Colors. Under Proof setup if you have a custom profile from the printer, invoke that. I don't have one, so I am just going to use the default Working CMYK. Now keep in mind that your monitor is never going to perfectly match printed output.

If you calibrate and profile it may come close, but it's still light coming at you versus ink on paper. But this will at least give you a better idea of what the result might be. When I go a view, if I choose Proof Colors, I think you can see that things got a little duller. But let's do that faster, and I think you can compare better. I like to use the keyboard shortcut Command+Y on the Mac, it's Ctrl+Y on Windows, and that way I can quickly toggle between RGB and CMYK and see what the results are. So there is the CMYK, there is the RGB.

Look at the large green roll of furry stuff up the left, look at the guy's blue shirt in the front, there is CMYK, there is RGB. The green is almost florescent it's so bright, and look how much duller it looks in CMYK. It's still a good-looking picture, it still has a lot of life and color in it, but if you'll do a look preview like this you'll have a better idea what it's going look like when it comes back from the printer. Here's another image and we'll do the same little preview. Now there is CMYK, there is RGB. You can see that the bright greens show the most difference.

So if you have an image that has a lot of bright green foliage and other content that's bright green, just kind of be prepared for what's going to happen to it when it goes to the printer. One more little thing, if you want to apply filters to an image, it has to be RGB. Now I've applied some filters to this image just to make it look a little bit more interesting because I am going to use it as a background shot. But it's still RGB. If I try to do that to a CMYK image and you can see again in the little title it says that it's CMYK. If I go to Filter, I can't even choose Filter Gallery.

So if you have plans to decorate some pictures by adding Filters, you're going to have to keep them in RGB. Now in the olden days, printers insisted on designers submitting CMYK images. Those rules have relaxed a little bit. Modern imaging workflows do a better job of converting RGB to CMYK on the fly. And in fact, some digital printing devices actually have a wider range of color than offset CMYK inks, and they can do a better job if they are fed RGB content. As always, you should ask your printer which they prefer and supply them with what they need.

Even if I'm working on a job for a printer that insists that I send CMYK images, I keep my images in RGB as long as I can, because I don't want to sacrifice color range too early in the game. And as I showed you, some effect only work in RGB. So I recommend that you keep your images in RGB, don't sacrifice flexibility. If you do needed to submit CMYK images, keep your working RGB file intact and then ask the printer which color profile you should use when you convert to CMYK. Either way it's all about not being disappointed when your job comes back from the printer.

The better idea you have on screen of what your image is going to look like when it's rendered in CMYK, the better prepared you are for the results.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Print Production Fundamentals
Print Production Fundamentals

68 video lessons · 25356 viewers

Claudia McCue
Author

 
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  1. 2m 7s
    1. Welcome
      1m 31s
    2. Using the exercise files
      36s
  2. 7m 5s
    1. What is print production?
      1m 51s
    2. Understanding roles and responsibilities
      5m 14s
  3. 13m 49s
    1. Communicating with your printer
      3m 49s
    2. What does the printer do with my files?
      2m 39s
    3. Understanding the importance of contract proofs
      1m 57s
    4. Handling corrections and alterations
      2m 8s
    5. Attending press checks
      3m 16s
  4. 13m 27s
    1. Choosing the correct type of printing for your project
      3m 15s
    2. The art of letterpress
      1m 33s
    3. Understanding the advantages of sheet-fed printing
      2m 22s
    4. Using a web press for long runs
      1m 39s
    5. Understanding thermography
      1m 38s
    6. Considerations for digital printing
      3m 0s
  5. 15m 11s
    1. What's a process color?
      2m 55s
    2. What's a spot color?
      2m 52s
    3. Exploring how ink behaves on paper
      5m 14s
    4. Comparing monitor vs. press output
      4m 10s
  6. 15m 15s
    1. Building to the correct size
      4m 37s
    2. Folding and trimming
      3m 18s
    3. Setting up for die cutting
      3m 19s
    4. Embossing
      4m 1s
  7. 3m 17s
    1. Choosing an application
      3m 17s
  8. 9m 54s
    1. Understanding font formats
      1m 45s
    2. Using OpenType fonts
      5m 20s
    3. Fonts to avoid
      2m 49s
  9. 13m 52s
    1. Comparing raster vs. vector images
      3m 23s
    2. Understanding color space
      4m 26s
    3. Examining image formats
      6m 3s
  10. 13m 13s
    1. Looking at image resolution
      7m 16s
    2. Masking basics
      5m 57s
  11. 39m 53s
    1. Understanding Illustrator
      2m 34s
    2. Illustrator layout tips
      2m 48s
    3. Building a simple three-panel brochure
      6m 29s
    4. Using swatches
      5m 22s
    5. Working with effects
      5m 16s
    6. Cautions about some effects
      1m 23s
    7. Importing images
      2m 41s
    8. Exploring fonts
      2m 42s
    9. Saving for users with older versions
      3m 2s
    10. Saving as PDF
      4m 36s
    11. Gathering up the pieces
      3m 0s
  12. 57m 8s
    1. InDesign layout basics
      5m 21s
    2. Building a simple three-panel brochure: method one
      7m 19s
    3. Building a simple three-panel brochure: method two
      3m 21s
    4. Working with color and gradient swatches
      7m 12s
    5. Making gradients and creating a rich black swatch
      4m 45s
    6. Exploring fonts in InDesign
      2m 54s
    7. Importing graphics
      7m 49s
    8. Copying and pasting graphics
      3m 38s
    9. Saving for users with older versions
      2m 21s
    10. Packaging up a print job
      6m 57s
    11. Generating PDFs
      5m 31s
  13. 22m 43s
    1. Using Overprint Preview in InDesign
      3m 3s
    2. Managing swatches in InDesign
      5m 29s
    3. Preflighting in InDesign
      7m 58s
    4. Using the Links panel in Illustrator
      3m 16s
    5. Using blending modes in Illustrator and InDesign
      2m 57s
  14. 35m 35s
    1. Basic forensics in Acrobat
      11m 3s
    2. Using Output Preview
      5m 30s
    3. Dealing with display artifacts
      2m 52s
    4. Using TouchUp tools
      8m 17s
    5. Converting colors
      4m 11s
    6. Using preflight profiles
      3m 42s
  15. 3m 27s
    1. Submitting the job
      2m 29s
    2. Being a good print customer
      58s
  16. 1m 2s
    1. Next steps
      1m 2s

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