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Printing presses use inks which are based on mixing the purest forms of ink colors Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black to achieve the right colors. For designs used for printing, select CMYK color settings in design programs. Alternatively, specific Pantone ink colors (also called spot colors) can be chosen from a color book.


For the web, use RGB (Red, Green, Blue) colors which are based on colored light (which is what the video output on a computer screen is.)




When getting involved in any kind of graphic design, you will undoubtedly be made to decide whether you will be designing with colors in RGB or CMYK and if printing, whether or not there will be spot colors. What is the difference and what is appropriate? The answer lies in the difference between graphic design for printing and graphic design for the web.


RGB: The colors of light


The internet is based on a color scheme using RGB (Red, Green, Blue). This kind of color scale allows for an unlimited supply of colors because it is mixing various amounts of red, green and blue light together to create color. It is not bound by the laws of inks and paper to create color, but simply the laws of visible light. So if we can see it, it can be made using RGB.


CMYK: The colors of inks


When designing for print, a graphic designer is limited by the variations of inks and papers. Inks can be mixed to create a very large variety of colors but they are still limited to what can be reproduced using these variations of ink. In full color process printing the ink colors cyan, magenta, yellow and black are what is used to determine what can be printed on paper (C,M,Y,K).


Spot colors and the Pantone system


The printing industry standard for matching colored inks is called the "Pantone Matching System" (sometimes known as PMS colors.) The Pantone matching system helps to regulate the colors of printing inks to aid in consistency across all printed media so that a customer can get any number of pieces printed at any number of printing shops and still have consistent color among the pieces. Many software programs have color swatches from Pantone books already built in them, but in order to know what those colors will look like on the printed page, you must get and look at a Pantone book.


REMEMBER: The colors on your computer monitor are only an approximation of what they will look like when printed no matter what color space they were created in. It is also important to consider the type and color of the paper that will be printed on as this can vary the color drastically in some cases. For more information, please contact us by phone, email or in person to discuss your paper and ink choices.


Additive (RGB) versus subtractive (CMYK) color


Inked paper absorbs or reflects specific wavelengths. In technical terms, the cyan, magenta and yellow pigments serve as filters, subtracting varying degrees of red, green and blue from white light to produce a selective gamut of spectral colors. So RGB are additive colors because they are the colors of light (which is what our eyes use to perceive color) and CMYK are subtractive colors because they are used to filter the light into the perception of other colors.


Designing using RGB or CMYK


So when a design is created using RGB, and then converted to CMYK (for printing using the ink colors of cyan, magenta, yellow and black) there can sometimes be a drastic difference in color. Usually a RGB color that appears red will still be red when converted to CMYK, but it will normally be a much more subdued hue than it was previously. That is why it is important for the graphic designer to view their final files in the color space that is intended for output. If he is designing a file that will be printed at a later date, he should be viewing it in CMYK color space before making the final color decisions.


Rule of thumb


Generally, if a design is going to be viewed on the web, it is designed in RGB and if it is going to be printed it must be designed in CMYK in order for the output of the design to remain similar to what is viewed onscreen.


©2012 Robin Lewis, Sr. Graphic Designer, Beck Graphics, Inc.




We provide various forms of binding and finishing including coil binding, spiral binding, padding and stitching. For a complete list of our bindery services, please contact us. Below are a few samples:





Below are a few illustrations of the most common folds.  Contact us for information on specialty folds.

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