Correct Color Format For PrintingHANMIPRINT™
Fig 1: CMYK vs RGB
CORRECT COLOR FORMAT FOR PRINTING
CMYK vs RGB vs Black – The Bizarre Love Triangle of Printing
Why is color format important? What’s the big deal with black?
Commercial full color printing is processed in a 4 color format known as CMYK. (C)yan, (M)agenta, (Y)ellow and (K) Black are layered to create the full palette of colors. However, what you see on your device displays are projected in RGB. So how does this work?
It’s important to note that for anything to “work”, you must utilize proper design software to layout and prepare artwork for printing. Specifically designed graphic design tools such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, etc., were engineered to configure colors to various formats.
As much as Microsoft Office Suite brandishes itself as a “all in one” package for all of your digital needs, nothing from MS Office offers the proper tools for print design work. And no, not even MS Publisher⌐. Enough about Publisher⌐. Moving on…
With the right design tools you can configure the document settings to CMYK color mode. This allows control over color data ensuring you are working within the CMYK profile and not RGB. This inevitably improves color accuracy throughout the entire process from design to final printed product because you see and work within the correct color profile.
Accurate CMYK setup is critical for outsourced commercial printing, however, most consumers simply aren’t aware and unassumingly submit RGB format files for printing. We receive thousands of orders every year with files submitted in RGB which ranks at the top issues we encounter in the industry.
So here’s the low down…
HanmiPrint.com as well as majority of the modern printers utilize CMYK – 4 color process printing. If an RGB file is submitted, we must convert to CMYK. However, there are major issues when converting from RGB to CMYK. A multitude of problems occur when converting but there are 2 primary concerns.
1. A color shift occurs during conversion. Sometimes the difference is hardly noticeable while at times so drastic it completely alters the image. CMYK cannot replicate the same bright tones of RGB (as seen in Fig 2 above), therefore, many times the final printed product looks much duller than the proofs viewed on device screens.
Fig 2: RGB converted to CMYK
2. The color black set in RGB never converts to pure black (K) in CMYK format. This is where it gets bizarre but absolutely critical to achieving great looking prints. Correct black color setup is paramount to crisp clean text and lines. It is misunderstood and under valued. Keep reading below to find out why.
What’s the big deal with black ink? Black is black regardless of color mode, right?
The color black goes through a wild transformation when converted from RGB to CMYK. RGB black converted to CMYK translates into a combination of all four CMYK values to create black much like how RGB uses a combination to create black of its own. See example below.
Pure black in RGB is RED 0, GREEN 0, BLUE 0.
Converted to CMYK, translates to –
CYAN 74.61%, MAGENTA 67.58%, YELLOW 66.8% and (K) BLACK 89.84%.
Remember these numbers. We’ll get back to them shortly.
Let’s take a step back and break down why this matters. To do this, we need to explain how we prefer to print black in commercial printing.
We print in CMYK primarily because of black ink. This is because for most print work, black is the dominant color for text and a large percentage of commercial printing is still done in single black ink.
This allows us to print black text and graphics in a single pass of ink versus having to layer multiple inks to create black. The single pass of black ink results in much cleaner edges for sharper text and graphics while reducing waste and cutting down production times.
Got those CMYK numbers I told you to remember? Now imagine layering those percentages of CMYK to create black text. Four separate passes of cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink layers are applied to create black. This leads to hazy or blurry text and graphics because no matter how advanced technologies have come nothing is ever lined up perfectly in printing. We can only get close.
The proper way to set up black in CMYK is only 100% K Black as shown below. Cyan, Magenta and Yellow are at 0%. This ensures that only K black ink will be applied as it proceeds through the press. Image below demonstrates how a single pass of black ink prints clean and dense opposed to the multi-layered combination on left.
It’s obviously clear which will achieve higher image quality. Hope we’re driving home the idea through your head. Proper color calibration is important! It’s critical! It’s absolutely necessary if you want to ensure the absolute highest quality imagery for your next print marketing project.
You put hours, days or maybe weeks into your project. Don’t ignore this basic print setup requirement that could potentially ruin all that effort and time.
Now you understand why correct color formatting for print is critical, especially black. This is why text is still predominantly printed in straight black ink across every genre of printing. Look at any magazine off the rack and you’ll see along with beautiful photos, most text is in black. It just prints cleaner in pure (K) black.
Taking a few preparations to ensure your color is in the proper CMYK profile for your next masterpiece brochure or postcard will net you pleasant results. It’s worth taking a few minutes to properly setup your color profile when you begin the design process and routinely check individual graphic elements, including text, to ensure they are in proper sequence.
The lesson here is avoid RGB format like the plaque for anything print related.
I know it’s a lot to digest. There is a whole science to commercial printing and without proper training and experience it can be intimidating. Hopefully you’ve picked up a couple things and garnered a better understanding of how proper color setup can make a big difference. I’m sure you at least have a better appreciation for competent graphic designers who understand the intricacies of print setup. ?
Bottom line…correct color formatting matters and proper black color setup is paramount. It’s what will ensure all the hard work put into the design prints with best results.
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We also use color manipulation to improve print quality for large areas of black. For large open spaces of black, sometimes a single pass of K Black just isn’t enough.
To achieve a deep dark rich black, we use a little trick with the CMYK formulation. HANMIPRINT™ prefers a CMYK combination of Cyan 40%, Magenta 40%, Yellow 60% and Black(K) 100%. This formula is referred as “rich black”. This ensures a full, even, deep rich black tone over large open spaces.
It’s important to note that you can use rich black settings for graphics other than backgrounds, however, rich black should only be reserved for large blocks of graphics. A simple rule is to never use rich black CMYK settings for any small-ish text or graphics to avoid hazing as mentioned earlier.
RICH BLACK: Cyan 40% – Magenta 40% – Yellow 60% – Black 100%
PLAIN BLACK: Cyan 0% – Magenta 0% – Yellow 0% – Black 100%
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General Overview of Printing Requirements
HANMIPRINT™ is an experienced online printing and design company serving thousands of clients across the U.S. and Canada. For all of your print marketing needs please visit our website for complete catalog of products and services.