You’ve worked for hours or days on your digital image, especially on your colors. But when you print it, it looks dull, and the colors don’t show a clear definition. What happened? The answer is a mismatch in color systems. Computer images use one color system, while color printers use another. That mismatch can lead to unwanted results when you try to print your pictures and photos. Fortunately, there are ways to convert RGB to CMYK and get better results.
Understanding Color Systems
You may remember learning about the primary colors when you were in school. You probably learned that they were red, yellow, and blue, but that rule doesn’t apply to the digital world. It also doesn’t apply to the world of professional printing.
In photography, for example, the primary colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow. Photographic development uses these colors to create the colors in photographs.
In printing, the primary colors are CMYK. The K stands for key color, which is usually black, and the others stand for cyan, magenta, and yellow. The key color is necessary to create deep colors, which CMY can’t produce on their own. Adding the K allows printers to create a wide range of colors.
What Is RGB?
When you create a digital image, you probably use an RBG (red, blue, green) color system. RGB images look great on websites and online brochures, but the colors don’t transfer well to color printers. RGB is an additive color system, which means that the more color you add, the closer you get to white. It is the primary color of light. RGB is used in computer monitors, digital cameras, and TV screens.
What Is CMYK?
Printed media uses CMYK, which is a subtractive color system. This means that colors are created by mixing the four primary colors and adding color until you reach the color black. The black key plate, symbolized by the letter K, holds the other three colors in place. It also lines up and holds the image’s details. A printer draws the images by mixing these four colors in various levels to get the desired result.
The CMYK system is the accepted standard in professional printing and publishing. On a smaller scale, some inkjet printers use CMYK printing. These printers can’t achieve the accuracy of professional printing, but they can give you a preview of what your finished product will look like.
Why You Need to Convert RGB to CMYK
Have you ever been disappointed by a picture once you printed it? To avoid that disappointment, you should use CMYK color palettes from the beginning, or convert RGB images to CMYK.
Are CMYK Images Better Than RGB Images?
RGB images are better for online uses, including ads, websites, and digital brochures. Once you move into print, however, it’s better to convert RGB images to CMYK.
Use High-Quality Printers and Paper
If you want to print directly from your computer to your printer, you can. Making the conversion will only work, however, if you use a high-quality printer designed for CMYK printing. The colors still won’t be exact, but they will be close to the image on your screen.
It’s also important to use high-quality paper. Use bright white paper that makes the colors pop. Glossy photo paper is an excellent choice.
To get an image that’s true to your design, use a professional printing service. A professional printer can turn your digital image into a beautiful, printed picture that’s true to the colors you chose.
Will the Image Look the Same?
Unfortunately, there will be some changes. You will notice definite color differences when you convert RBG images to CMYK. This is most likely to happen when you print sizable items like posters.
How to Convert RGB Images to CMYK
Following are the steps you’ll need to convert RBG images using the most popular graphic design software packages. You can also use online converters to convert RGB images, even if you don’t have graphic design software.
Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign to Convert RGB Images
Adobe’s graphic design tools are the most used in the design world. Both Illustrator and InDesign make it easy to convert RGB images. Adobe also uses a feature that will convert any colors it can’t reproduce with their closest equivalent in CMYK colors. These are known as “out of gamut” colors. Adobe will automatically find the closest match.
- Select “Edit” and “Convert to Profile.”
- Under Destination Space, choose your CMYK profile.
- In the Conversion Options menu, choose Adobe ACE as your conversion engine and Relative Colorimetric for your “intent.”
- Click OK.
Adobe Illustrator to Convert RGB Images
This is another easy conversion.
- Click on the image you want to convert.
- Choose “Edit.”
- Select “Edit Colors.”
- Choose “Convert to CMYK.”
- Click OK.
- Select the image and click on the “Fill” tool.
- Choose the “Fill Color” dropdown box.
- When you see the dropdown box, click on “CMYK.”
- Click OK.
If your image has an outline, you’ll need a second set of steps:
- Click on the “Outline” tool.
- Select the “Outline Color” dropdown box.
- When you see the box, choose “CMYK.”
- Click Ok.
- Go to “File.”
- Choose “Export” and “Export as PDF.”
- Select “PDF Style.”
- Select “All.”
- Choose “Press—High Quality/High Resolution.”
Doing this will convert RGB colors, remove hyperlinks, and use high-resolution rendering of your images.
- Go to “Tools,” and select “Commercial Printing Tools.”
- Choose “Color Printing.”
- Choose “Process Colors (CMYK).”
- Click OK.
If you are working in Word, you won’t be able to use this conversion feature. You must drop your Word document into Publisher to convert RGB images.
Online Image Converters
There are many free online converters you can use. These make it easy to convert RGB images into CMYK images, even if you don’t have the required software. Do an online search for “RGB to CMYK converter” to find several options. The following instructions should work for most of them:
- Open the online converter tool.
- Enter the RGB values in the sections marked R, G, and B.
- Click on the “Convert to CMYK” button.
- The converter will change the RGB color values to the matching CMYK color values for each color.
- Click on “copy” or “previews.” You’ll see the results in a CMYK version.
Do You Have to Convert All Your Images for Professional CMYK Printing?
When possible, you should convert RBG images to CMYK images before printing them. Making all these conversions can be difficult, but doing so ensures you get the colors you want in your book, brochure, or poster.
We Make Professional Printing Easy and Affordable
We hope you’ve found this explanation of the different color systems useful. Entire books have been written about color systems, but we hope we’ve covered the basics well enough for the average user to understand.
At Dazzle Printing, we help our clients produce great-looking posters, brochures, mailers, business cards, and more. Our fast, affordable printing service will help you make a great impression in print. If you’d like pricing for your print project, check out our online pricing calculators.