RGB vs. CMYK: Speaking the Language of Ink

LOLZ! I had to laugh when talking to a friend of mine who told me in no uncertain words that they didn’t speak text. The problem? There were so many acronyms they couldn’t keep it all straight! LOL could stand for Laughing Out Loud or Leg Of Lamb or League Of Legends.  ASL can be used for demographic purposes to mean Age/Sex/Location or it could stand for American Sign Language, and  ATST could stand for At The Same Time or Average Total Sleep Time (or Advance Technology Solar Telescope, but we don’t see that one all that often!).

Of course, I promptly recommended they go out and pick up a dictionary that would spell it all out for them,  but sitting at my desk this morning flipping through paperwork I couldn’t help but wonder how many of our customers experience that same sense of hopeless cluelessness when we expect them to know the difference between RGB and CMYK.

 Speaking the Language of Ink

Think ink in a printer comes in all the colors under the sun? Think again...

How bi-lingual are you? Time to pick up your automatic translator and set your cap. Today, we’re going to teach you how to speak the language of ink.

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue, the primary colors of light. When your scanner or digital camera saves an image, it saves it in RGB form. The images that pop up on your screen are in RGB. But since we haven’t figured out how to scoop light out of the air and slap it down on a piece of paper yet, printers don’t create images out of light. They create them out of pigment, which is where CMYK comes in.

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key Black, the primary colors of pigment. When you get a chance, pop open the lid on your color desktop printer and take a look inside. That little printer uses CMYK. Imagine that on a grand scale and you’ll have a pretty good visual of how a large commercial printer works.

When you’re working with software programs for your digital images, you’ll usually be given the option to work with them in either RGB or CMYK. An image created in RGB is not going to look the same when it’s created on a printer using the CMYK four color process. That means if you don’t convert your image to CMYK before you pass it on, you could be handed an interesting surprise when you pick up your order!