RGB vs. CMYK – Printer Color Matching
When you’re printing, sometimes you will notice that what you have printed doesn’t always
match the colors on the screen. Printer color matching is something that can be managed by
understanding color profiles and the basics of RGB vs. CMYK. Not only will we help you
understand what this all means, but there are some tips and tricks to match your printer color
What is RGB?
The simplest way to understand RGB is to know that it stands for Red,
Green and Blue.
Red, Green and Blue are all primary colors in visible light. Every color that we
see is all created from combination of RGB light reflected to our eyes. Some
common RGB light sources are computers, the sun, televisions, and even your
Our eyes see an equal amount of RGB light when we are looking at a sheet of
white paper. The paper is reflecting white light from your light sources or the sun.
When our eyes are looking at a colored image, we are no longer viewing equal
parts of RGB. Printers will print in CMYK to control the light that is reflected from
the surface of the paper.
What is CMYK?
CMYK is also easy to understand when you know it stands for Cyan, Magenta,
Yellow, and Black.
When you print in CMYK, some of the Red, Green and Blue light that would be
reflected from the paper’s surface is removed.
How do RGB and CMYK work together?
Different combinations of Reds, Greens and Blues (RGB) will give us Cyan,
Magenta and Yellow (CMY). When Red, Green and Blue are all mixed together,
you get white. Combinations of CMY will also give us RGB. When Cyan, Magenta
and Yellow are all mixed together, you get black.
Range of Color, Color Gamut
Another important thing to understand is that what range of colors, or color gamut, we
can see on the computer screen is generally larger than the range of colors that can be
printed on a CMYK printer.
Color Matching Tips and Tricks
Most of the time, the RGB color combinations that you see on your computer screen are
automatically converted for your printer to print in CMYK. However, sometimes you will
have to give the printer more information about your colors to allow for the best color
An important thing to understand is that a certain combination of CMYK on one printer
could yield a different look on another printer. There are standard color spaces that relay
industry standard color definitions that make sure the printers are all understanding the
If you are sending your image off to a printing press, it might be best to use a program
like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator to convert the colors to CMYK. Most of the
time, it’s best to check with your printing service first.
If you still need a little extra help with color matching, Professional Plotter can help you with all
of your color management services. They also offer wide format printer sales and plotter sales.
Don’t hesitate to call for more information.