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16 - What is RGB & CMYK colors in Adobe Illustrator CC


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Hi there, in this video we're going to talk about RGB versus CMYK. You might have come across this, you might have not. It's kind of essential, I guess, to understand the basics, so let's cover them quickly.

So when you're setting up a new document you're given the option to pick RGB or CMYK. So if I go to 'Print', and pick one of the defaults it's going to-- you might not have this viewable, you might have to click 'Advanced Options'. By default it's going to go to CMYK. If I go something like Web, or Film, or pretty much, any of the other ones, and I pick one of these, it's going to default to RGB. So RGB is a color which is Red, Green, and Blue. Basically those are the colors used for screens to display color.

So my laptop in front of me right now uses a mixture of Red, Green, and Blue to generate the colors that we see, but we know that if we use our printer, the one on our desk, if we have a look, it's going to use Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, that's CMYK, it uses those colors to mix together. The big difference is, RGB has a secret ingredient, it has light, luminescence. It has light coming out of the screen that allows it to generate more colors than CMYK can. You'd probably have tried it before, you've printed an image that looked great on screen, but the print's a bit washed out because your screen has light coming out of it, whereas the paper from your printer has no lights. So it's a different kind of color mode. RGB is a bigger gamut of color, CMYK is a smaller one.

Now why would you use both? Basically RGB, as a rule is probably your best one to use for everything at the moment. Especially if you're going to use something that's going out via email, or via website. Even if it's going to print, it's probably going to be dual use, so many things, are these days, you'd probably going to want to use it for both your website, to be downloaded, and to be going to commercial print. If it's something you're creating like a postcard that's going to commercial print only, you might want to consider using CMYK, but in that case as well, my experience is that most modern printers will expect RGB. They've got some cool reps and ways of kind of making, I guess, getting the most out of their CMYK. So often, just use RGB, it's going to be your-- if you're unsure, just use RGB. If you're a little bit more professional, you probably know this already then. And you can use CMYK.

Now, let's have a little look at the differences between the two. Let's go to 'File', 'Open'. In here there's one called 'Colors.ai', open that up. So this my RGB document, how do I know? The easiest way, up in the tab here, you can see, it's RGB. The way to change it, let's say I want to be in CMYK, I can go to 'File', there's one called 'Document Color Mode'. You can see, I've ticked RGB. Watch what happens when I change to CMYK. Watch the colors, watching the colors. They wash out quite a bit. It's giving you representation now of what it would look like in CMYK. Now if you're only going to commercial print and they've asked for CMYK there's no point being in RGB, but if you're like me, I often dual use things, I'll use it for all sorts of things. I'll start in RGB, and often just send it to the printer in RGB, and depending on your printer, they've got really good ways of converting it to CMYK to try and restore some of those colors. I hope that's giving you a little bit of understanding of CMYK and RGB.

So the rules are, my basic kind of rules are, use RGB and send it around, it works fine. It works on digital, and works good for printing to local kind of printers. Even my office printer accepts in RGB better, and processes it nicer than if I send them a proper CMYK official version. But you need to know the difference between the two. Some printers will demand CMYK, and that's fine, that's the way they work. So just make sure you're working in CMYK. You might have to have two versions of the document, one in RGB for digital, and another one in CMYK. All right, let's get into some more exciting stuff about color. Let's get into the next video.

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