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How Different Color Models Impact Graphics Production

Posted by  on Jun 26, 2015

In a normal course of our business we encounter many color models, otherwise known as color spaces, from which we need to produce high quality graphics. It’s common for us to receive RGB images (photos taken from a smart phone, digitally produced images, or images found on the web).

better results with quality graphics for your store displays

Because these images are meant for viewing on screen, they use the RGB color model, which is short for Red, Green and Blue.  We need to convert these images to make them printer friendly. That means converting them to CMYK, which is short for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, the process used for printing.

CMYK or RGB…Which one should you provide to your fixture company?

While you can provide either one, we prefer that you sent us the RGB. This is because each machine or piece of equipment that we print on has different requirements for the conversion. When we’re mindful of the equipment, we end up with a better quality end result.

Some things to keep in mind about CMYK for graphics.

CMYK DiagramCMYK is the preferred color process for all graphic printing projects. CMYK is the color model where all colors are described as a mix of these four process colors. CMYK is pronounced as separate letters and is short for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black or Key (Offset printing uses 4 metal plates that have your image burned directly to them one for C, M, Y and K respectfully. The K plate is the key plate usually black as outlines are generally made in black).

This is the standard model, which is used in the offset printing process for full color prints. When printing with these four colors, you are printing using a four-color process using the subtractive color model.

CMYK starts with all colors and when all the colors are subtracted, the end result is white however added together they create black. This is why we use CMYK when printing full color prints as we normally print on a white paper, which absorbs light allowing for the full color effect.

Some things to keep in mind about RGB on screen displays.

RBG DiagramRGB is also pronounced as separate letters and is short for Red, Green, and Blue. RGB is the color model used for display devices and has been defined as light primaries. Primary colors are known as pure colors because mixing other colors together cannot recreate them.

When you combine these colors such as red and green light rays will produce yellow. Combine red and blue you will produce magenta. Combine blue and green you produce cyan. However, mixing RGB together you create white or “light”. This is why RGB is an additive color process, as you must add these colors to achieve your end result. This color model is used in TV’s, computer screens and movie theater screens. This method is only applied to devices that emit light.

The impact of resolution on image quality.

Screen resolution is 72dpi. CMYK for high quality graphics range from 150-300dpi. On a monitor, 72dpi is sufficient to see good quality; however, depending on the viewing distance print graphics require significantly higher resolution to display well. Consider the viewers distance from the graphic when determining resolution. The closer they are, the higher the resolution is needed.

A simple calculation of resolution X length will give you the file size you require for you project. For example if you’re visual is going to be 24 inches wide, and the person is within a couple feet, you would need a file resolution that would be 24in X 300dpi = 7200 pixels wide. If uncertain of your project’s resolution needs, please feel free to ask us or your graphics supplier.

When designing for on-screen viewing, the process uses RGB. When printing the process uses CMYK (also known as full-color, 4-color, or 4C).

We hope you have found this helpful and answers your questions around which file type to provide. In the end, you may provide either, but please know that if you provide us with RGB, your graphic supplier can do an even better job with your graphics needs.