CMYK for Print: How to Ensure Proper Print Colors

It's a nightmare scenario for graphic designers.  You've spent hours pouring your creativity into a print ad, t-shirt design, or banner for a client.  The design has been adjusted and approved, and sent off to print.  As you finally see the final product, your heart sinks into your stomach.  The colors are wrong.  Sometimes this isn't a huge problem, but if there have been colors specifically chosen to represent your brand, the situation can blow up quickly.  Because the science behind high quality, full color graphics has grown increasingly complex, we're here to provide you with the best practice for the perfect print job every time.

First and foremost it's important to understand the difference between RGB and CMYK.  RGB is Red, Green, Blue, and these colors are additive.  These are the colors that we see on our computer screens.  Computer monitors are able to display a vast color palette with millions of colors more than achievable in print.  This can lead to problems, as things designed on the computer will look different once printed.  This is because CMYK is the color range used for printing.  CMYK is Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.  These are subtractive colors, meaning that as you take them away you get closer and closer to white.


Now that we know this information, how can we use it to get the results we want?  There are a couple of solutions.


Convert Within Photoshop

To change an RGB file to the CMYK space, open your file in Photoshop and go to Edit>Convert to Profile

Select your target profile, which should be in Library>ColorSync>Profiles

Then select a rendering intent appropriate for your image (to simplify, Perceptual if the relevant image colors are out of the target's gamut, otherwise Relative Colorimetric). If you select Relative Colorimetric, it's also a good idea to check "Use Black Point Compensation".


Use An Online Converter

There are multiple online converters, like the one found here.  Just be sure to double check the final product to make sure that nothing went wrong during the conversion process.


Use a Hex Value Converter

This website will give you hex values in both RGB and CMYK so that you can work on your design with the correct color palette from the jump.

There you have it!  Using this guide and understanding the difference between color spaces will help to make sure that your clients are happy with any and all print work that you design.

Check back next week for another Marketing Tip, and contact us if you need help with your website, social media, graphic design or any other online marketing needs!