With this post on RGB and CMYK color spaces in printing, we start a new series of our blog, entitled: “Ask the printer”. We have asked some expert professionals in the world of printing to provide us with their tips and tricks to getting that perfect print of your graphic design.

The first expert of our series is Sergio ‘SHIN’ Baselice. With a degree in Graphic and Multimedia Design from La Sapienza di Roma, Italy, Sergio is the owner of Shin Graphic, and also a Roland Master designated by Roland DG Mid Europe. An advanced user of Adobe products, he is an Illustrator and Photoshop trainer at Hexis Academy. Sergio will show us why it’s advisable to keep the file in RGB instead of converting it to CMYK for best photo print results.

“One of those recurring questions a printer is often asked is: “how should I save a file to get the best print for photos?”
I am here to tell you, undoubtedly, it has to be RGB! I assure you, provided your workflow is correct, keep your image in RGB and you won’t have issues.
I know some of you may find it hard to believe, since we have always been told exactly the opposite, namely: “print is in CMYK, so you need to convert in that color space, in order to obtain a fine and smooth print.”

Designer at work. Color samples.

Actually this is not true. For those among you who follow this dogmatic faith, I will show you why it’s a mistake to convert a photo in CMYK before sending it to print.

But first let me tell you something about the below GAMUT. 


As you may see in the image above, we compared different color spaces. First we have the range of visible colors, then the larger space that is the Adobe RGB, and finally, marked with black line, we have the CMYK. The CMYK will certainly be less saturated, therefore will cut off a whole series of nuances (especially on greens and blues) contained in the picture. In other words, by converting a file in CMYK, all those possibilities are irreversibly deleted from the data of your photos.

Hope it’s clear by now why it’s not a good idea to convert a photo in CMYK.
So my advice is to keep it in RGB. Are you asking why? Let’s start from the photo. Photos are in RGB. You may want to set the Adobe RGB rather than sRGB, still the file will be a RGB file. Same goes for a photo scan; it’s a RGB.

The genesis of any photo is RGB. 
Keep in mind that modern printing RIP have an internal conversion engine that allows you to go beyond the simple CMYK.

Thanks to advanced machines that print in hexachrome or four-color process, it’s easy to understand that moreover a file in RGB will include a much wider color gamut. Our RGB pictures will look amazing on print.

I hope I have dissolved your doubts on the matter. For best prints, don’t hesitate between CMYK and RGB: stay in RGB!

RGB color spectrums

A big thank you to Sergio for taking the time to share his expert advice with us!