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What is Color Mode?

When you work with your computer to create or convert files, you’re working in RGB. RGB stands for red, green and blue, which is the color of lights used for monitors, tvs, and anything with a digital display. This color mode is what we call, additive color. Red, green and blue light are combined to reproduce an array of colors.

The printing industry uses CMYK. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black), and refers to the process inks used in printing. It’s what we call, subtractive color. These process colors are layered, typically on a white background, and “subtract” brightness from white. The more ink, the darker the image.

What happened to that beautiful bright blue color? If your files are not already in CMYK color mode, they will be converted during the prepress process. You will find that there is a color shift when converting files from RGB to CMYK. Bright neon hues will convert to a muddy or natural tone. Because of this shift, it is recommended to initially work in a CMYK color space to get a better representation of the finished color.

Not sure what to use for your black and white project? If your project uses shades of black (gray), it is recommended to use a “grayscale” color mode. Projects that have no variation and are only solid black and white, can use the bitmap color mode.