Admin Water Cooler 46 Comments

This is a quick post about how best to educate our clients on the best quality in color and for their printing with us.

Our work is showcased not only in print for brochures, postcards and letterhead, but we also create huge environments with large scale graphics and we do a ton of digital marketing and there is a difference in the quality of images we receive.

For Print

When we are working on a brochure or a smaller print piece, we encourage very high quality images in CMYK at a minimum of 300 dpi at final size. This will create the truest colors and best quality print.

For Large Scale Graphics

We work on very large graphics, and often it is a museum with historical images. You can’t always control the quality of those, but we will convert them from bitmap, grayscale or RGB to CMYK. If they are high res images though, we encourage you to give those to us in CMYK and at as high res as possible to retain quality and color.

For Digital and Web

Luckily, we are a little more forgiving here. You can provide us images in any color space and we can convert to RGB. However, high quality images at at least 150dpi or 300dpi will hold up well and idea for us to convert to pixels for online.

To further summarize the above, when it comes to deciding to use RGB vs CMYK, first figure out what the output will be. If the output will be on a computer monitor then RGB is the way to go. If the piece will be printed, CMYK is usually the standard and the best option. Thats all there is to it when it comes to using RGB vs CMYK colors on your projects, please feel free to join the discussion below. We’d love to hear from you!


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Comments 46

  1. Thanks for the information! I created some art prints for a teacher for their classroom. I did it in CYMK since she was printing. However, when she took the files to Walgreens for printing, they only accept RGB. Why the discrepancy?

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  4. I’m creating painting packets to sell on the web (pdf’s), and for print.
    What dpi should the art image be scanned?
    Will the dpi be the same for both pdf and print?

    Also, should I size the art in Photoshop to fit exactly for using in the page layout program?
    I use Photoshop and Quark.
    Thank you.

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      Image mode gives you a choice of using RGB or CMYK. If you are going to keep what you are doing on the web RGB would be great. If you intend on printing you should use CMYK. If you are doing both, create in CMYK and save once complete, then save as a second file in RGB. Hope this helps.

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          Depending on your project, if you know you are going to print, build it in CMYK, then you can do a Save As… for web. If I know something is never going to go to print, they RGB is fine to use.

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  6. Thank you I am studying graphic design at my university and this was very clear and helpful 🙂
    As far as RGB, how do you know what a graphic will really look like on a website? Different computer monitors sometimes display colors differently.

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      Unfortunately, you can’t control other peoples monitors. Low quality monitors typically have a harder time with dark colors or low contrast text and images.

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  7. I always design with RBG and the outcome makes me argue with my operator, i will change to CMYK and see the results. Thanks

  8. What if it will be both seen online and will be printed also? How do you know whats best to use when its both?

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      Your printed work should be done in Pantone and/or CMYK. Your online work should be in RGB. We use the Solid Pantone Color to Process Guide to get accurate colors in all medias.

  9. Hi – so when it comes to Printing shades of grey – say, for a business card. Its better to use CMYK; but can you elaborate on what cmyk values are best for ‘Cool’ shades of grey. Starting with print black? thanks so much

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      If we are shooting for a particular color, we use the Pantone Color Matching System. You can get the CMYK values of the colors that you want to achieve by purchasing their color books. If you go based off your monitor, there could be variances when you print. The Pantone library has a huge library of cool grays and various shades of black to choose from.

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      This is a bit tricky. You have a couple options, you can use the Pantone Color Matching System book with PMS, RGB and CMYK color values in it or get actual samples or a book from Benjamin Moore Color Library that are closest to what you are trying to match and compare visually. If you search online, you can find a color converter that will translate your CMYK or RGB to the closest Pantone color and then you can compare that to paint chips. However, I suggest finding the paint chips first and then trying to incorporate into your project. Good luck! Let us know what worked for you.

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  12. How do you actually know what color is going to print on your printed document. I have been very disappointed in the past with the printed color as compared to the color displayed on my computer screen. The document was set at CMYK. How do I assure a primary shade of yellow and not get a green shade of yellow?

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  13. This is confusing, can a computer show what a printed image can or can’t it.

    On the other end, computer monitors give off colored light known as RGB (CMYK is colored ink.). This is because monitors are limited on the color spectrum range that they can produce due to the cathode ray tubes. Computer monitors have a larger color gamut than printing that can be achieved, which is why a computer can display a million more colors than what can be achieved with printing.

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      Hi David, thanks for commenting. We have adjusted the wording in the article so that it is a little more clear. To answer your question a computer cannot perfectly replicate what is printed, it can get close but it will not be an exact match. Hope this helps!

    2. It is confusing, but a PC cannot show you EXACTLY what colour you will be printing, but the best way to see what it may look like is to convert rgb to cymk.

      rgb has millions more colours than cymk, so if you keep image as rgb, the colour shades may appear slightly different when printed. Converting to CYMK lowers the amount of colours available (as printing would) and therefore you see the picture roughly what it looks like as a print.

      But you have to remember- quality of the printer, quality of ink you use, quality and shade of paper you use, printer health, all play a part in the overall tones of colour print. a pc monitor will never account for these either.

      These are the main reasons why you can never see what you are printing EXACTLY on a monitor screen, but cymk mode will give you a good idea

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  17. In the CMYK explanation above the CMYK color swatches, I think you have your blacks and whites mixed up.

    1. Hi Dillon, thanks for taking the time to comment. You are absolutely correct! That is a typo on our part, we have gone ahead and adjusted it to read correctly. Thanks again for pointing it out!

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    1. Hello Emi! Would you care to elaborate? We love to learn and improve and would appreciate your input. Thank you for your interest!

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