Join David Blatner for an in-depth discussion in this video RGB, CMYK, and other recipe ingredients, part of InDesign: Color.
- I find that a lot of InDesign users, even people who've been using it for years, don't really think about color enough. What it is, how it works, and the result is that they find themselves banging their heads against a wall trying to figure out why their colors don't look the way they expect. So, bear with me for a few minutes as I explain how I like to think about color in InDesign. And this is going to sound crazy at first, but the most important thing to know about color is it doesn't exist.
There's no such thing as color out there in the universe. It's only when our brains interpret certain kinds of light that we say we see color. In that way it's kind of like flavors. Nothing has flavor until someone tastes it. And you know how the same thing can taste different to two different people? It's the same with color. The same color on your InDesign page can look different to different people or even look different based on what's around it. And that I like that analogy with food because mixing up colors is very much like mixing ingredients for a cookbook recipe.
A little of this, a little of that and you end up with a color that you want. So making a color is like baking a cake or something, but the ingredients that you'll use depend on whether you're designing for screen or print. On screen devices, color is always made up by mixing red light, green light, and blue light. That's the RGB we keep hearing about. Now the more red, green, and blue that you add, the lighter the color until it becomes white.
Take out all the light and, well, it's kind of like a dark room. It's all black. But when you print, it's the opposite because you're working with ink, specifically cyan, yellow, magenta, and black inks. That's CMYK. And the more CMYK ink you put down, the darker it gets. And the less ink, the lighter it gets. Just the opposite of RGB. Now technically in a perfect world with perfectly pure ink, you could print with just CMY, cyan, magenta, and yellow because 100% of all of those should make black.
But it's not a perfect world and the combination of these colors end up being kind of like a muddy, brown grey. So we need to add black to make up for that. K stands for black because I guess if you used B people would think you meant blue. So we use K. There are several other side effects of this not being a perfect world. For example, even solid black ink is rarely really black. Maybe on some digital printers it is, but in most cases, black ink is more like dark, charcoal grey.
And you have to add some color to boost it. That's called making a rich black. Also, you can't represent all the same colors in print that you can in RGB. There are some colors, mostly really bright or very dark saturated colors, that you just cannot make in CMYK. And on the flip side, there are actually some really bright blue greens that you can make in CMYK but that you just can't show on most RGB screens.
And finally, you have to keep in mind that different devices show color differently. And if you've ever been in a television store, you know what I mean. You can see 10 different TVs next to each other and they show the same colors differently. It's the same thing with different color printers and even different printing presses in different parts of the world. Now the range of colors that a particular device can create is called its Gamut. Device Gamut becomes especially important when you're trying to figure out how to represent the same color on more than one device.
But all of that said, most colors you can represent in both RGB or CMYK. That is, you can mix the ingredients together, either RGB light or CMYK ink, and you'll get the color you're looking for or at least you hope it's the right color because as I said, even different people see color differently. So anyway, all of this is to say it's important to know what you're trying to achieve and it's important to know your ingredients. Let's switch over to InDesign. When you first create a Document in Adobe InDesign, you're given a choice.
Right here in the Intent pop-up menu, the Intent is your goal, your output and if you choose Print and then click OK all your color swatches will be set up using CMYK inks. Here let's look at the Swatches panel. All of these are CMYK colors. Even the red, green, and blue swatches down here are defined with CMYK ingredients. Of course I could make additional colors using RGB ingredients if I wanted to, but the default colors are all CMYK.
Now if I come up here and create a new Document and then I set my Intent to Web or Digital Publishing, I'd get something very different. In this case, all my colors are being defined with RGB ingredients. I'll hover over it and you can see in that little tool tip that this is being defined with RGB 0, 0, 0. Now curiously, you can change any of these swatches from RGB to CMYK or CMYK to RGB just by editing them, except black. You cannot edit black so you're stuck with your initial choice.
Okay, I need to explain one more really important fundamental idea in InDesign, the difference between colors and inks, and I'll do that in the next movie.
- RGB vs. CMYK
- Spot colors vs. process colors
- Applying colors
- Converting spot colors
- Creating swatches
- Exploring color with the Color Picker, Color Theme tool, and Adobe Color