Color Management In Offset Printing: RGB Vs CMYK

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Staff member
Press Expert
Sep 7, 2022
When it comes to print marketing, effective color management is key to ensuring that your color schemes remain consistent throughout your printed and digital materials. Besides print resolution, image size, paper quality and bleed, color management in offset printing is one of the most common issues faced by clients

What is Color Management?

Color management is the means through which you control conversion between the different color systems of various media. For example, an HD plasma TV screen will have a different color mode to a computer monitor. Which in turn is different to an offset printer. The type of coloration you can achieve in print is very different to what you can achieve on-screen. So it’s crucial to bear this in mind when undertaking offset printing. If you’ve designed a beautiful custom poster for printing, it will look different on paper when compared to how it looks on your computer.

The main aim of color management in offset printing is to ensure a smooth coherency across all your marketing materials. When coordinating a multimedia marketing campaign, you need to make sure that the colors in your digital advertising look consistent with those in print. Building up color coherency is essential to creating a recognizable and impactful brand. Imagine if coca-cola red was always changing; it wouldn’t be so iconic. The color of the cans has to be the same as the color on the website and on the billboards.

So how can you manage color effectively?

The first step is in understanding that print and digital media use two entirely different color schemes; CMYK and RGB respectively.


RGB (Red, Green, Blue) is a digital-only color scheme that looks more vivid. It’s bold, rich and vibrant, with lots of subtle gradations. However, it cannot be replicated in reality, thus you will always need to print in CMYK. This is because RGB color models are working with a fourth element: background light. On a computer, the integrated light from the screen helps RGB models display a larger spectrum of colors. Paper, on the other hand, has no integrated light, so it displays fewer colors.


CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) is the color scheme being used for printing since all printing machines work in this code. Even though the CMYK color mode uses four main colors (compared to three main colors in RGB) it has a lower color space, because print can’t replicate background light that is essential for RGB color schemes.

What does RGB vs CYMK difference mean for my print products?​

When you print an image that has been designed in the RGB mode, it will often come out looking slightly faded, muted, or discolored when converted to CMYK for print. In order to manage against discoloration, you will have to account for this in your design.

Should you be designing with RGB or CMYK?

At the design phase, it is essential to know when and how to use RGB or CMYK. A good rule of thumb for color management in offset printing is that anything designed for use online or onscreen should always be in RGB, whilst printed material such as flyers, posters and brochures, should be in CMYK. Choosing between these color schemes won’t affect your resolution, but it will affect the quality of your printed image. Bearing in mind that printed materials will always require CMYK, if you work with CMYK at the design stage, you won’t be disappointed when it comes to print.

Priya ea

Sep 14, 2022
Color spaces in InDesign are attached to the individual elements you create or import. An overall colorspace or profile can be assigned when exporting or printing. I recommend the following:
• Design elements created within InDesign (any vector graphics like lines, shapes, strokes, etc.): create these using the color slider (RGB or CMYK) you're most comfortable working with (you can also create custom color or pantone swatches).
• Images imported/placed within InDesign: keep these in RGB mode as long as possible and only convert to CMYK if needed (see info below for converting images in Photoshop).

When you create a new document in Illustrator you can choose from document presets like Web (RGB) or Print (CMYK) settings. You can always go back and change the color space of your document, or convert the color space of individual objects (and preview Proof Colors).
• Note that if you choose the Web preset to work in the RGB color space, you want to go under the Advanced settings and set your Raster Effects setting to 'High (300 dpi).'
Digital Originals (i.e., digital photographs, scans, or content created within Photoshop, etc.)
Work in the RGB colorspace. You will preserve the most color information this way. If any of your content is eventually going to press, you can perform the conversion to CMYK yourself (recommended) or have your print vendor do it (see below for one recommended method).

Here is one recommended method for conversion of RGB images to CMYK.
To avoid the need to make colour adjustments after the image has been converted to CMYK, first ensure your proof settings are correct (View > Proof Setup > Working CMYK). To turn this on, select View > Proof Colors (or Cmd/Ctrl + K) to simulate the outcome of converting to CMYK. Remember to select this again to turn it off afterwards.
Two useful options to your proof settings can be found under View > Proof Setup > Custom. _Simulate Paper Color_ and 'Simulate Black Ink_ options will reduce the contrast range of your proof view to that of ink on paper. Turning this off will extend the contrast range to that of the monitor. This is helpful when working on image detail.
As your eyes adjust to changes in lighting conditions, both are acceptable working methods, but if you want to be able to hold a print up along side the monitor and get a good match, then these options should be selected.
When your image has been colour corrected, save a master copy in RGB so -- if needed -- you can modify it later with the maximum colour information.Then proceed to scale it to the required size, apply _Un-sharp Masking_ and then choose IMAGE > MODE > CMYK, saving this as a new image file.

(color management settings for the Epsons are in the manuals at each print station)
After you go File > Print and make your page settings, etc.
• Under Color Management
• Make sure your document profile or working space is set to Adobe RGB 1998
• For Color Handling choose 'Printer Manages Colors'
• Choose Normal Printing and leave Rendering Intent set to Relative Colorimetric
After you go File > Print and make your page settings, etc.
• Go to the Color Management section
• Set Color Handling to 'Let Postscript Printer Determine Colors
You have a couple choices here based on how you set up your file, and how you want to print it. The Konica's RIP is set up to recognize and process CMYK and RGB separately if they exist in the same document. So you can send your document that way, or you can send all the info in RGB. Both processes seem to work equally well but, again, depend on your original color settings and workspace.
a) Print with mixed CMYK and RGB color spaces or with any native color spaces unchanged
  • • After you go File > Print and make your page settings, etc.
  • Go to the Output section
  • Under the Color menu choose 'Composite Leave Unchanged'
  • Go to the Color Management section
  • Under Print leave the 'Document' profile button clicked
  • Under Options and Color Handling choose 'Let PostScript Printer Determine Colors
  • Leave the 'Preserve CMYK Numbers' box checked
b) Print everything as RGB
  • After you go File > Print and make your page settings, etc.
  • Go to the Output section
  • Under the Color menu choose 'Composite RGB'
  • Go to the Color Management section
  • Under Print leave the 'Document' profile button clicked
  • Under Options and Color Handling choose 'Let PostScript Printer Determine Colors
  • Leave the 'Preserve CMYK Numbers' box checked