I recently had a great discussion about the use an RGB colour setup when designing for CMYK print. I received various responses within my article Top Ten CD Cover Design Tips, whereby the talented designer’s Alex Charchar, LaurenMarie and Rob Cubbon joined the conversation…
I generally support the notion of designing in an RGB colour mode ― for print and web regarding imagery that is to be printed in CMYK. Some of you reading this may know what I’m talking about and agree wholeheartedly, yet I suspect that some of you would ask yourself:
Why would I ever design in RGB for printed material that will be printed in CMYK ― or even CMYKOG (Hexachrome®)?
Moreover, some may have heard about initially designing in RGB for print before, tried it ― and never did it again ― offering a statement such as this:
I tried designing in RGB ― but all the colours just turned out muddy when I converted it. That’s the last time I’m trying that again…
A valid point. But to prove my case, I will start at the beginning and explain why, in the majority of cases, I design in RGB in the initial design stages of print work. Of coarse I send my files off to the printers in CMYK, but this article is about how the initial file setup in an RGB colour profile can benefit designers.
You may ponder as to why anyone would design in RGB, when the final output is in CMYK. This is like saying:
Why should I mix the ingredients to make fresh cake, when I can go to the shops and buy one ready-made?
Well, the answer to this is quality. If you design in RGB, you have a larger colour gamut to work with, as well as many additional benefits:
Benefits of Designing in RGB
★ RGB File Sizes are about 25% smaller than CMYK
★ Many filters and functions are only available to use in an RGB colour mode in PhotoShop® and similar programs.
★ The RGB colour gamut is larger than CMYK
★ Working in RGB means that your images are web-ready with no colour conversion (as opposed to designing for print in CMYK and converting the colour to RGB for web-use).
To place the above list in a workable context, here is a simulation of how using RGB to design your printed material would have been more beneficial than CMYK (based on one of my previous comments in the aforementioned CD article):
…I setup my files as CMYK with a FOGRA 27 colour profile. After spending hours designing an 8-page CD Gatefold design, the client supplies me with some more photo files to be used. As they originated from a digital camera, they are in RGB. I place them in layers in Photoshop® and get to work. An hour later, I want to use certain filters on these layers — but I can’t, as many functions and filters are only available in RGB mode in PhotoShop®.
…After spending much work-around time editing these photos in separate RGB files and importing them back in, I transfer my PSD file onto my MacBook as I’m working on the move. As CMYK files are approximately 25% larger than RGB ones, my laptop starts to slow down, causing loss of productivity to myself.
…My client also informs me that this CD cover is to be used in an interactive digital booklet and used online in iTunes, etc. As the CMYK SWOP gamut is vastly smaller than the “additive” RGB gamut, some colour info will be lost on conversion to the “subtractive” CMYK one.
…Further down the line, I may also want to include images from my own scanner — again, from source RGB.
In conclusion, it’s always easier to work in RGB. Some colours may be lost when converting to CMYK, but that is what the “Preview in CMYK” option is for in PhotoShop®, so you can keep track of disastrous results from any conversions.
Are you convinced of the reasoning behind these benefits? Next, I’ll take a look at the CMYK colour mode:
Benefits of Designing in CMYK
★ When designing in RGB, there will have to be a conversion to CMYK at a calculated time near the completion of an image. Sometimes, the colour of the image can change appearance due to this conversion. If you work directly in CMYK, there will be no such conversion ― and therefore, no colour loss.
Ok. That’s it. The only benefit (in most situations/generally) of working in CMYK is the colour control ― but a league of restraints counteracts this benefit.
If you have any questions about this article, please leave your comment below. I know some of the termanology I have used may be unknown to some, so just ask-away ― I’m always glad to help out…