DESIGN TIP: Know Your Colorspaces
What is a colorspace?
Colorspaces tell a computer what range of colors the designer is limited to. You can create color in many different ways. For example, screens (i.e., computers) create color with different light, but physical materials (i.e., paint) create color by adding pigment. Different processes have different limitations.
When digitally designing something you ultimately wish to print in full color, you should always make sure you work in CMYK. CMYK (C=Cyan, M=Magenta, Y=Yellow, K=Black) is the colorspace that printers can print within. Computer screens display in RGB (R=Red, G=Green, B=Blue), which has a much wider range of colors to work with, so unless you work with CMYK you may end up with a print that doesn’t match your screen!
How much of a difference does this make? Is it that noticeable? The printer creates all colors out of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black pigment, not light… so if an RGB file is printed, the printer tries to get it as close as possible. It is how much the printer’s base colors typically change:
As you can see, designing in the wrong colorspace can make a HUGE difference. It’s best to set the colorspace right from the beginning, but you can always change midway if you forget. There’s just no promise the design will look the same! In Photoshop, it’s as easy as selecting the correct option under “Mode” in the “Image” tab.
Here’s my file:
Here are my colorspace options (I’m currently in RGB):
Here’s my file after selecting CMYK. Notice how the top of the rainbow matches the bottom now:
Since your file will change quite a bit, Photoshop will ask you whether you’re sure. You CAN undo a colorspace change, but it’s still a good idea to save first to be safe!
So there you have it… the beginner’s walkthrough of colorspaces and how much of a difference they can make. Happy designing!
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