RGB to CMYK

For the restless among us (including me), let's delve straight into the proper use of our RGB to CMYK chart. Below I offer more detailed information on color space and why it is important to you. We also produced a video for those that don’t like to read all the details. Go here. If you don’t already have your free color chart, go ahead and submit your information here .

  • pick the color swatch you like from the printed chart.
  • Compare the color to the RGB or Pantone to CMYK below. To get the mixing values for CMYK click into the tab to the right [RGB with CMYK values] [Pantone to CMYK values].
  • To find the corresponding Pantone color in Adobe Illustrator: Open your Pantone color panel and enter the corresponding Pantone value into the Find box. for example 101-16 for the top left blue color.
  • In Photoshop (or your favorite drawing program) make sure you are in CMYK mode (Photoshop, Image>Mode>CMYK Color). Mix the color according to the numbers.

Color space

The Human eye can detect a wide range of colors. However, the range is limited to the edge of infrared and ultra violet on the other end of the spectrum. For instance, we can’t see the light emitted from an infrared remote control. The eye cannot perceive any light waves beyond the spectrum.

A monitor can display around 16 million colors (8bit models). The RGB (red green blue) color space or gamut of such a monitor let you see a wide array of colors. But even here, certain colors we can see in everyday life cannot be reproduced accurately.

The print gamut is even more limited. An image is composed by laying down four colors in succession. In printing jargon, CMYK refers to the color Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Not to confuse “B” with blue, it was decided to call black with the letter “K”.

What does all that mean to you? Colors you see on the monitor may not print properly. For example, a vividly displayed red may look brown once printed. Therefore it helps to have a color chart with the CMYK mixing formula. Now you can enter the color values into your favorite paint program (such as Photoshop) and be reasonably certain what you will get once printed. Keep in mind that colors will shift no matter what, even slightly. There are many contributing factors such as temperature, humidity and the overall print batch adjustments.

Tip: When purchasing a monitor for important color work, we suggest an IPS-based display.

Color gamut for human eye, RGB and CMYK
CMYK gamut for print Printers can only reproduce a limited color spectrum whether you hire a local printer or an online printing service.

RGB and CMYK mode

Always make sure your work is in the correct color mode (gamut). What might look great on your display could look different when printed.

Colors in RGB
RGB colors
The same colors but in CMYK
RGB to CMYK colors

Some features in Photoshop are not available in CMYK mode. You can switch back and forth between RGB and CMYK to streamline your workflow. Just make sure to convert to CMYK before submitting to press.

The blues

When using a blue in your design, always make sure to leave at least a 30% difference in your Cyan and Magenta values.

On screen
RGB on screen color blue
After printing
RGB to CMYK color shift
Blue is close to purple in the CMYK spectrum. Remember, use a low amount of magenta whenever using high amounts of cyan to avoid purple.

Example: C-100 M-70 Y-0 k-0

The grays

Grayscale images that are converted to CMYK will have a color shift in the final print. That shift may be green or yellow.

On screen
gray scale in RGB
After printing
gray scale color shit in CMYK
Always check the CMYK values of your grayscale in the final CMYK document. If there are other values other than K in your grayscale image, there is a chance that the color will vary.

To eliminate all values other than K, use your Channel Mixer (adjustment layer) in Photoshop, then click "Monochrome" and adjust accordingly.

At first glance the fingernail colors look the same. Note the hot pink in the middle. In the final CMYK version (left side. Above on cell phone) you see the color muted. Especially when designing for colorful content such as this beauty nail salon business card make sure in Photoshop to switch back and forth between RGB and CMYK. In RGB mode you will have access to more filters and tools, yet you will not know the outcome. Reds and blues are especially crucial to check for proper color rendition. Red easily shifts to brown and blue to purple.

Deep black?

Comon whisdom tells us to adjust the color to 100% (black). But, thats not enough. In order to get that deep saturated black you need to mix your color as follow: 60% Cyan, 40% Magenta, 60% Yellow, 100% Black (K).
This fact is really obvious when you compare the results on our color chart

Black backgrounds can be very appealing for the right application. Deep black requires to deliberately mix to the formula outlined above. If you don’t have access to a high end design program such as photoshop you can give your back a slightly colored background. Have a look at the automotive business card (to the left. Above on your cell phone). The background includes a good dose of black magenta and blue.
There is always a small color shift when printing in CMYK. We keep the colors of RE/MAX as per specifications to make sure your business cards, brochures and flyers look beautiful. Please have a look at our free RE/MAX business card designs.