Marketing guide to colour formatting images
November 15, 2018 | Posted in: Articles & News, Branding
Often having trouble formatting images? Colour is one part of formatting images that stumps a lot of people looking after their marketing.
RGB, CMYK and a bunch of other acronyms can seem like a foreign language to many people trying to upload images so that they look good online or provide the right format to the printer. I thought I’d provide a bit of help by de-coding these terms and make it easier to ensure your images look their best however you are going to use them.
What are these colour acronyms?
RGB and CMYK are a couple of the many different colour matching systems used by designers, printers and other creatives to ensure that when they communicate a colour, they are using a language that they each understand to mean the same thing. For example with CMYK, each letter represents a colour in the printing process c = cyan, m = magenta, y = yellow and K = black. A CMYK colour reference would be provided as a breakdown of the colours that are needed to make it, communicated as percentages of each. For example, a pink would have a lot of magenta in it and not so much of the other colours, red would be 100% magenta and therefore it is communicated as C0, M100, Y0, K0.
What is CMYK used for vs RGB?
CMYK is used for printing whereas RGB is used for digital purposes (on screens). So, if you are providing a printer an image to print on paper/tshirt etc., whether that is a photo or a logo or any other graphic, it should be supplied as CMYK. This is not the file type, it is the colour formatting applied to that file. So a jpg can be save as CMYK colour format under the colour settings in whatever application it is created in (e.g. in Photoshop the setting can be found under: image>mode).
RGB on the other hand is the colour format that is used for uploading to a website etc. Again, the colour setting on the file can be checked or changed on the application the image is created in or edited in. Cameras such as SLRs and smart phones by default format photographs as RGB.
What happens if I use a CMYK file online or print an RGB image?
This really depends on whether there is any smart conversion going on behind the scenes or not – some websites appear to automatically correct one format to the other, others don’t. Generally, a CMYK logo loaded to a website without conversion to RGB will look extremely vivid and wrong! Likewise, if you print an RGB image, the colours will not look like they were intended to – often the printer highlights that some images are not formatted properly to print when they run a pre-press check. They will either convert the images for you or they will ask for them to be resupplied. In some cases, they may just notify you that the colours won’t be reproduced accurately.
Do I need to be bothered about these colour systems?
Most of the time this is something you don’t have to worry about because your designer will make you aware which images are formatted for online use and which are for print, however the problems can happen where you are not aware of what the file differences are and inadvertently provide the wrong one. For example, your company may have a listing on an online business directory, so you just grab the first logo you see in your files and upload it without realising it is CMYK or intended for printing. If the files you have been provided are not clearly labelled, it may pay to put “print” or “digi” in the filenames. If you need to re-format the colour of an image, you simply need to do this in the relevant software, which in many cases will be something like Photoshop, Gimp, or some other photo editing programme.
So, in summary, it’s something that’s not worth losing sleep over, but good to know as part of expanding your knowledge about marketing your business and ensuring your brand presentation is top-notch.