All About Color In Print

Posted January 6th, 2014 by .

Categories: Color.

More people today are designing/creating their own print and marketing pieces than ever before. There are dozens of design and layout programs available, and the use of industry standard PDF files means we can all play the same game. You can now design, write and create anything and send it directly to us with just a click. What that means for a printing company like ours is that we never know exactly what we will receive when opening a client file to print. Now, don’t get me wrong, we are fully equipped to handle any and all issues that may arise, but I think it might be a good idea to talk a little about one of the more common problems we see: Color.

Color is funny, actually particular might be a better way to describe it. When you’re designing you don’t always think about color in the same way we think about it. Color is color; when you want a bright blue box, you make a bright blue box chosen from one of the palettes and you move on. If you are creating an online piece, you use web safe colors, computer screens use RGB to create images, digital presses don’t really care what types of colors you use (although it may affect the price) and traditional offset presses require Pantone spot colors or process colors (CMYK). So let’s take a look.

RGB Color
RGB (red, green, blue) must be converted to CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) prior to traditional offset printing. You must be aware that the CMYK color conversion may not preserve the colors from RGB exactly as you expect. If you are planning to print digitally there is less concern because digital presses translate all colors they receive automatically.

Pantone Colors
Pantone colors are considered “spot color” and not CMYK Process. To avoid extra charges on full color printing work please convert all Pantone colors in your design or layout to its CMYK process color equivalent. For the most accurate conversions, Pantone sells conversion guides for spot color to process.
Visit for more information.

CMYK versus RGB
The color mode of your image is very important. All color elements of your design should be set for CMYK color space. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K). This means that all colors are created by varying percentages of each of those 4 process colors. For press, we can only accept color elements that are CMYK (for black and white elements, use Grayscale or Bitmap which only use black (K of CMYK).

RGB is a color space used for non-press uses such as images displayed on a computer monitor, television, etc. RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue. If your image is RGB, like all images that come from your scanner or digital camera, you will need to convert the file to CMYK. This process will not preserve the RGB colors perfectly, but it is the only way to make the image suitable for press. This also applies to all non-image elements in your design. Make sure all items in your design, like graphic elements or type, are set for CMYK.

However you choose your colors, know that we can help you get the best results possible for your next project. If you ever have any questions regarding an upcoming project, or an issue with the design of your project, just give us a call, anytime. Thanks.