What Happens If You Print RGB Instead of CMYK?

When getting a file ready for print, you may have been told to make sure to convert it from RGB to CMYK. While it’s common practice to make this conversion, many don’t know why. Does it really matter? What happens if you send it to print without changing the file to CMYK?

Generally, if a file is not converted to CMYK before printing, the printer will do so automatically. This means that the printer will make the color adjustments from RGB to CMYK, which could result in colors that don’t match the intended result.

With everything that goes into graphic design, it’s not always easy to remember every little detail of the process. While many programs like Placeit will make the change for you, it’s essential to know what happens when you print RGB instead of CMYK. Read on to find out.

Is It Possible to Print in RGB Instead of CMYK?

If you forget to convert a file to CMYK before printing, it’s not always the end of the world. However, it may come with some consequences you might have to contend with, such as a design that doesn’t exactly match what you see on your computer screen.

If you do not convert your file from RGB to CMYK, the printer will convert it for you. This is because the printer can’t create all of the colors that are available in the RGB color model. When compared to CMYK, RGB offers a larger color gamut. Because ink does not emit light, it is impossible to duplicate all of the colors shown on a screen in printed ink. So, instead, the printer does the conversion on its own, trying to match the RGB color with a CMYK one.

This means you won’t be able to see how your print will turn out until the printer completes the job. As a result, you could end up with color adjustments that don’t match the brand or color model you were going for.

Will Commercial Printers Accept Files in RGB for Print?

While it might seem like you are skipping a step by not converting color mode before sending a file off to print, this could actually be an extremely costly mistake. So costly, in fact, that many commercial printers will refuse to print files sent in with the RGB color model.

Even though many consumer inkjet printers can now print hundreds or even thousands of times as many colors as CMYK color printing, it’s still vital to switch to CMYK. This is especially true when sending a print design to a professional printer. Otherwise, you risk the printer returning weird, muddy, or just inaccurate colors.

You can avoid this potentially costly issue by switching your color model or designing in CMYK from the start.

What is the Difference Between RGB and CMYK?

Everyone is familiar with the color processes RGB and CMYK. But you might not be clear about their differences and why it matters. The color ranges of the two methods differ, with RGB allowing a greater range of options.

RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue, the three distinct color channels that make up a digital light display. It is an additive technique, combining red, green, and blue in various proportions to create additional colors.

The CMYK process is a subtractive one. To generate various colors we can see, different quantities of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black are employed to “delete” reflected colors off the paper.

Why Should You Convert Colors from RGB to CMYK for Print?

Converting color modes from RGB to CMYK before printing can save you from a huge headache. Automatic color model adjustment can lead to unwelcome surprises.

For example, you may have chosen a neon green color in RGB for your poster because of the way the vibrant color pops on the screen. However, when it gets sent to print, the finished product comes out looking more like an olive green.

This is because the printer cannot always translate the vibrant and intense colors shown on your retina screen into physical objects. If you create a brilliant, geometrical pattern in RGB and then convert it to CMYK, the colors will lose their brightness in print.

The RGB color model contains many more shades than the CMYK color model. A backlit screen will also provide a brighter color than any pigment on canvas or any other medium. Solids produce the most vibrant colors when using CMYK. Therefore, the most vibrant hues accessible in print will be 100 percent cyan, magenta, and yellow.

How To Convert RGB to CMYK

If you already have your design completed in RGB, you may be wondering how to change it to CMYK. Don’t worry; you’re not going to have to start from scratch.

For the most part, most programs make it fairly easy to convert between the two-color models. This is because graphic designs are often jumping between the modes, depending on the type of project they are working on.

In Adobe Illustrator, for example, you would simply go to Files > Document Color Mode > CMYK Color to convert. In Photoshop, it’s just as easy. Simply select Image > Option and then choose the desired mode from the submenu.

When using online graphic design tools like Placeit, you have a lot more freedom with the color mode that you choose. In this case, it’s a good idea to use an online CMYK picker. This allows you to choose the colors you would like to use, and then edit the colors with the CMYK equivalents on those sites.

Final Thoughts

You should now have a good idea of what happens when you print RGB instead of CMYK.

To produce logos and graphics for the web and print, graphic artists require both RGB and CMYK. However, neither will perform flawlessly on both platforms. If you’re going to be designing for print, it’s essential to make sure to convert your file from RGB to CMYK before sending it off.