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why CMYK

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Andy Engelkemier
why CMYK
on Jun 28, 2017 at 5:57:57 pm

Before I go getting people all upset, I'm trying to learn here by creating an open dialogue but I'm coming from a non-print world for the most part. I create Everything in RGB, because it's RGB. I take pictures with a digital camera, and render things in 3D software, which is obviously RGB.
When I first started printing things, back on my HP 670 or something like that, you know a junk consumer inkjet capable of a few colors. I had to convert things to CMYK to be sure there weren't some colors, usually near black, out of gamma to see if what Looked like black didn't print out like poop.

These days, however, with lots of effects and things like transparency, nearly every printer I use has zero benefit of printing in CMYK. In my perspective....You're designing on a display that's RGB. Everything I'm looking at is RGB. So print in RGB, and just make sure the printer is calibrated to convert that as appropriately as possible. Heck, our printer here prints with RGB, and also a couple versions of CMY and a few grays.
The exception to this would be known spot colors. Like if I'm making something like a 3 color screen print, that's a completely different beast.

So I started asking professional printers. And they are a mixed bag. Some of the group insists on CMYK. Some don't care, and some RGB. The reason there is people will do something like put a transparent object over a spot color. Oops. Now it won't print correctly unless you make the thing RGB.
I've found the best solution to just open the document in Photoshop, whether it be AI or PDF, and just convert it there.

I did some experimenting here, with CMYK and RGB, and our Canon printer is Really only calibrated to RGB. If I calibrate my monitor, pick an RGB alternative to a pantone color, and print out a CMYK version and RGB version, the CMYK is noticeably off from the pantone chip. Now, I may have done something incorrectly there. And that wouldn't surprise me.

But my question realistically is, for Most of users out there, should we actually be Only using RGB? Most everything you design ends up on screen. Some of it gets printed, but it's funny, but most everything ends up on digital content, Then printed. If you print from RGB it looks as close to what you see as it can. If an unknowing person prints in CMYK it won't look Anything like what they see on screen in most cases. So I don't understand why it still seems the standard is to keep copies of vector logos and all your content in CMYK. It just seems like it causes an extra headache. And don't get me Started with what happens when you convert colors from CMYK to RGB. I don't know anyone that knows why it converts the way it does, and we All hate it.

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Vincent Rosati
Re: why CMYK
on Jun 28, 2017 at 6:42:27 pm

"for Most of users out there, should we actually be Only using RGB?"
I think so, yes.
I worked with large format digital printing for a while, and very often RGB project files would print better.

I read every word of your post and appreciated it.

It's occurred to me that Adobe has modified how color conversions happen in and between apps, over time. I suspect that I'm familiar with your exact headache.
I'm at the point where I'll keep 2 'masters', CMYK and RGB. I say 'masters' because you can't have 2 masters. It's silliness.


*Please remember to Like an answer if it solves your question or gives you a good idea.

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Rob Dahl
Re: why CMYK
on Jun 28, 2017 at 8:18:46 pm

To avoid long discussions on light based color and ink based color: those who are interested should learn color theory.

Process I use for CYMK/RGB:

If the client scope is for print (a dedicated printing facility) only: CYMK. I Try not to use any transparent imagery. But if necessary, I fully rasterize any transparent image and send jpg to printer with/for expectations/comparisons and their specific advice to get the image correctly printed on the desired surface.

If the client scope is for computer/tablet/phone, or local printing (meaning at their desk, local office printer or instant Print locations): RGB. (Web on special occasions if CSS driven or SVG.)

I use Pantone's Color Manager (Color Bridge) for conversion values. Not Adobe's. Nore do I modify the color profiles. I use one color corrected monitor and work on that monitor. (I have three monitors that cannot be matched to each other 80% of the time).

Additionally: if the client specifies that a specific color type is used, I will explain color theory as needed. (final Target based.)
In Illustrator, I also set up three color palettes: CYMK, RGB, and WEB for every client job. It is a little time consuming, but I can have all the colors approved before I work on the job.

Rob Dahl
Transparent Alchemy
Boulder City, NV 89005

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