RGB, CMYK, or Spot Colors

It may seem simple enough to convert RGB to CMYK in Photoshop, but what is done at this stage will have dramatic effects on the overall look of photos when printed.


RGB does not contain a black channel, but one is generated upon conversion to CMYK. Certain CMYK color profiles have a heavier black generation point because they utilize a technique called GCR (Gray Component Replacement). GCR removes equal amounts of cyan, magenta and yellow and replaces it with black. This can make the photo easier to print, as it is easier to keep black neutral than it is to balance 3 colors. But, be careful, GCR done to excess, can drain the color vibrancy out of photos.

A Question to Consider before Converting

What paper is this printing on? Paper has the greatest effect on how the final piece will look. An example of this is that uncoated papers will darken and muddy photos vs. a gloss coated sheet. The total amount of ink density needs to be much less on uncoated than on a coated paper to keep photos from appearing too dark.

When Converting to Uncoated Papers

use a SWOP coated or US Sheetfed uncoated Profile which lessens the

total ink density to 260 – 300 Dmax. For coated papers use Gracol 2006 (ISO standard) with total ink density of 330 Dmax. This higher density profile will give you more saturated color to let the images pop off the page. If you feel unsure about which profile to use, just leave the images in RGB and we will convert them for you.

CMYK vs PMS Color

Many different effects can be achieved by printing in CMYK (4/C process) or by adding a PMS (Pantone Mixing System) specialty color. But there are times when this can benefit the quality of piece or be a detriment.

When to use PMS Color

When using colored type it helps to print in a PMS color as it does borders and headlines. This will make the color more consistent throughout the piece and it will allow for more adjustment of the 4/C pictures at press, and have solid type that is not made out of screens.


Tip: It is best to pick out a PMS Gray rather than print a 4/C gray

especially when the tint is predominantly C, M, Y rather than Black.

The human eye can pick out very subtle changes in hues of grays.

When not to use PMS Color

Where trap area’s are formed by PMS colors they may produce an undesirable dark edge, an example is when red and green traps you will get a very dark trap area. If you use 4/C process match of the PMS colors many times no trap will be needed, thus producing a smoother transition and no dark edges.


Tip: When you screen back or tint a PMS color, sometimes an undesirable color shifts happen. An example is when a Maroon PMS color is screened back it will take on a Pinkish hue.




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