Salt Lake Mailing & Printing Blog

RGB vs. CMYK Color (Why Doesn’t My Print Job Look Like it Did on My Computer?)

color swatches

For people who are working with printing or graphic design, one of the biggest puzzles is figuring out why the colors on their computer screen are different than colors that ultimately get printed. In order to understand the difference, it is important to have a basic understanding of color modes and how they are used.

There are two types of color modes: RGB and CMYK. RGB stands for the primary colors of light: Red, Green, and Blue. All light emitting devices (including your computer monitor) use RGB color. CMYK stands for the 4 process and ink colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK. All printing devices use CMYK color.

Why is the distinction important? Well, RGB has a larger color gamut than CMYK. This means that your light emitting device will have a wider range of colors on the screen than is possible to actually print. CMYK uses numerous variations of the inks in order to create the different colors in the printed spectrum. However, it does not have the possibility of creating colors of the same brightness and vibrancy that can be created by RGB.

If you are concerned about making sure that what you see on your screen is what you will see on your final product, it is important to change your settings on your computer or other device to CMYK mode. This will change the way that the colors are displayed, giving you a more accurate depiction of what will show up on your final product.

While this change will go a long way in removing the discrepancy between your computer screen and your final product, it is not the only thing that plays a role. Another big contributing factor to the changes between the colors you see on your screen and what you see on your final printed product is the type of paper used in the printing. The biggest difference appears between coated paper and uncoated paper. If you use coated paper, the ink sits on the surface, which allows the color of the ink to stay brighter. Uncoated paper absorbs the ink, which means that the final color will be more muted. Always make sure that you pick the paper type before you start your design so that you can keep its qualities in mind.

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