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Thread: RGB vs. CMYK: The final battle!

  1. RGB vs. CMYK: The final battle!

    Since I've switched to just using ArtRage for all my work, I've had some confusion on the RGB and CMYK front and professional printing (not just to hang your art on your wall, but for paying clients).

    I've searched the forums, the web, and printers' sites...some say RGB is fine, some say you must to use CMYK for professional jobs.

    Before with Photoshop, I stuck with the CMYK rule, but I don't have that option with ArtRage and now I am just confused! Any help on clearing this up for me would be greatly appreciated!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    NC, USA
    You could import the completed RGB image into Photoshop and convert the colors to CMYK, but there will undoubtedly be a color shift. Sometimes the difference will be subtle, other times not so much. The following link has a good explanation for why one would want to use CMYK colors over RGB for printing:
    Nothing is easy to the unwilling.

  3. Thanks Someonesane. Good article. I have tried the converting to CMYK in photoshop in the past and the outcome is usually not so good.

  4. #4
    Preface: I work in pre-press in my day job as a separator and imaging specialist.

    The RGB/CMYK question is not a simple either/or one. It really depends on how your image will be used and who will be working with it. If you're printing from your home inkjet/laser/dye sub, then RGB is the way to go. Why? These devices printer drivers generally take RGB data (with an assumed sRGB profile) and convert them internally into the printing devices color space. Converting to CMYK in these cases will mean that the printer driver will convert from CMYK back to sRGB internally and then into the device space. Obviously, the first RGB to CMYK hit is going to dull your color. So for best results with these printers, sRGB profile and then right to the device.

    For commercial print, things aren't so simple either. Commercial printers want CMYK right? Wrong. All CMYK spaces are not equal. As a person who profiles printing presses, I can tell you that there are dozens of ink vendors, substrates and printing processes involved. We literally spend weeks at a time creating press profiles to aid in color match and CMYK separation. I can also tell you that the CMYK profiles that ship with Photoshop are highly idealized offset printing CMYK profiles as a rule. We don't use them to separate. So, when it comes to CMYK you have a lot of questions to answer before you select the right one. My advice in this case is, if you can, build your files in RGB (AdobeRGB or sRGB) and let your separator do the conversions to CMYK (+spot inks in some cases). They have the expertise, they know what they're doing and they're likely to get the best result.

    If you're not using a separator, then you need to educate yourself about the print process your working with before you convert to or choose a CYMK space to work in. Is it offset, flexographic, gravure, or digital litho (read that glorified inkjet press). How many ink stations are available? Do you want to use spot color inks in your separations? What sort of black ink (key) separation do you want; heavy blacks or skeletal. There's a lot of things to think about when doing your own seps. Making the wrong choice can mean a lot of expensive color correction come press time. If your printer has it, ask for their ICC profiles so that you can use them to separate your work. Many won't want to hand this out, but you're the customer, so feel free to push them. Calibrate your monitors using professional software and hardware (like Spyder or XRite's i1). Soft proof your image using the printer's profile so you know what to expect.

    Above all else, when dealing with CMYK and commercial printers large and small, pay for a contract proof. Most places aren't going to be still using matchprint or cromalins any more. They're likely going to be calibrated inkjets, but the point is that want it looked like on screen or your own printer doesn't mean a thing. The printer's contract proof is the bible when it comes to color on your job, it's the thing you can hold them to to demand satisfaction on your job. There's no replacement for it. Don't accept soft proofing as a contract proof (unless you're a lot less picky than any client I've met.) Paper is not pixels and soft proofing is at best a guide to the imaging operator. Get that contract proof so that you have something concrete that you can all agree on as to what your color is supposed to look like.

    That's my long winded 2 on the issue. Hope you find it useful.
    Last edited by nimajneb; 07-31-2010 at 12:27 AM.

  5. It's a bit delayed, but thank you nimajneb! That helped a lot and answered all my questions.

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