For Artists: RGB or CMYK?

RGB or CMYK?Today a bunch of artists who are in a group on FB and I had a discussion about whether or not to convert images from RGB to CYMK for printing – for book covers, postcards and other such promotional materials.

I guess I’m lazy, because I almost never do that. The few times I have, it’s been for a book cover I have designed for a client, and the book’s printer asked for the conversion.

It really depends on the printer – even for my books that I publish on, I submit RGB color-profiled covers.

For promotional stuff, I use for printing my postcards, and for my (really gorgeous) biz cards, and never switch from RGB to CMYK. And the colors come out fine – spectacular, actually, in the case of the cards from (who I so recommend!).


Check with your printer to see if you really need to switch – even publishers I’ve worked with who print out the book covers I design tell me they can print RGB, and they look just as vibrant on the actual book as they did on my screen.

If you’re not in a hurry, I’d say to get a print sample before your print run, and keep tweaking your image until your sample and your idea of how it should look match up.

What’s the Difference?

Changing your image color profile from RGB to CMYK usually means a dimming of color. See the image above – the changes aren’t all that horrendous here, but would make a big difference on paper.

Why? Because when you look at colors online (RGB), you’re seeing colors with light streaming through them, making them look luminous, whereas in print (many conventional printers use CMYK), you’re looking at pigment on paper or some other fabric or support, where the color is refracting and reflecting.

What Are RGB and CMYK?

RGB = red, green blue – think of the peacock symbol you see on tv – it’s light turning into color – as light is seen through a prism.

CMYK = cyan, magenta, yellow and black (don’t ask me why black is K and not B), as seen in the 4-color printing process at any printer’s.

I hope this has helped you in your search for excellence – comments are open below if you have anything constructive to add – thanks!



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