CMYK or RGB?

ImagineFX - - ImagineNation -

I’ve al­ways wanted to be­come an il­lus­tra­tor, but after art school, I be­came in­volved in graphic de­sign and the print­ing in­dus­try and those dreams were put on the back burner. But now I’m work­ing on my art skills.

Given my work back­ground, I’m cu­ri­ous how the pros ap­proach choos­ing a colour space to work in. I know that sig­nif­i­cant colour shifts can oc­cur when con­vert­ing from RGB to CMYK for print­ing. Do most artists work in RGB and chance the con­ver­sion? Work in RGB and con­vert them­selves be­fore sub­mis­sion? Work in CMYK from the start? And what’s the best way to en­sure what the artist sees on their mon­i­tor or tablet is the same as what’s seen by the art di­rec­tor or pub­lisher? Harry Searcy, via email Claire replies Hello Harry, nice ques­tion! Artists gen­er­ally work in RGB be­cause it has a larger colour gamut com­pared to CMYK. Mon­i­tors are RGB, too, so what you see is what you get. Keep­ing your files RGB en­ables you to use all Pho­to­shop fil­ters, which you can’t do in CMYK mode. And RGB files are smaller in size, so they’re eas­ier to man­age.

Clients might want to use a par­tic­u­lar CMYK colour pro­file in their prod­uct, so it’s best to send them an RGB im­age to en­sure a bet­ter con­ver­sion. Keep­ing your im­age as an RGB file will also mean that it’ll be ready for the web.

Pho­to­shop’s Proof Col­ors tool gives you a rough idea of how your RGB file will look be­fore con­vert­ing to CMYK. This demon­strates the shift in colour, yet still en­ables you to mod­ify your RGB file.

As you’ve said, ev­ery­one has dif­fer­ent mon­i­tors/hard­ware, colour pro­files and room light­ing con­di­tions, so no two images would look the same on dif­fer­ent com­put­ers. One so­lu­tion would be to cal­i­brate ev­ery de­vice in the pro­duc­tion chain for visual con­sis­tency, but this would take a fair bit of time!

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