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Topsham Ltd

Just a few words about colour

"nowadays print is more than just ink on paper."


Let there be light - or put it another way, RGB is the technology for mixing (R)ed, (G)reen and (B)lue light in order to produce any imaginable colour. This technology and colour mixing process is used by all computer screens and electronic devices. You should always design in RGB if your final artwork is going to be used on computer screens or digital devices.

RGB can give you very bright and nice colours (after all, it’s a light show) that are impossible to produce using inks. If you forget about this, you might end up with a great online design that looks quite dull when printed.


Unlike computer screen, printers cannot use light to paint colours on paper, which is why we have to use the next best thing, good old ink.

All desktop and professional printers mix four different ink colours — (C)yan, (M)agenta, (Y)ellow and (K)ey (Black) which is abbreviated as CMYK.  These four colours can be mixed together in varying amounts to produce thousands of different shades and hues on paper and other media.

But as you can imagine, mixing CMYK inks is very different than mixing RGB light. For example, if more lights are added to RGB it produces brighter colours where as adding more ink in CMYK produces darker colours. In RGB, White is defined with the maximum value of each colour channel (R:255,G:255,B:255), while in CMYK mode it’s defined as a complete lack of colour (C:0%,M:0%,Y:0%,K:0% ).

Something else to remember, Pantone colours cannot be accurately reproduced in CMYK.

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