Cassette At Work

Knowing the Colour Spectrum for Computer Printing

shutterstock_212092354With the advent of the digital age, nearly everything that we do with both our business and personal printing needs are prepared on the computer. So it’s now a standard expectation that our printer is able to replicate the colour pigments we see on our monitor screen as closely are possible.

The two main colour programs that a computer program will use to do this is either using the RGB or CMYK colour spectrum.


Your computer monitor emits colours as RGB, which stands for red, green, and blue light. The theory that all visible colours can be made by red, green, and blue light coming together was originally thought of by Thomas Young in the 17th century, and it worked very The problem, however, is that when it comes to computer screens they’re only able to produce a limited range of colours.

The RGB colour space is referred to as an additive colour spectrum. This is because when three of the primary colours are combined and added (red, green and blue), they form white. This is also what happens with the general light spectrum. And because computer screens use light to emit colours, it makes sense that they use the RGB colour space.

Therefore many computer programs will use the RGB colourspace as the default for colour images, designs, and artworks stored on your computer.

The main problem with this in regards to then printing these images and colours is that the ink and toner used in computer printers isn’t always able to represent completely the emittance of light. Hence why the CMYK (cyan, magenta,yellow, black) colour space is now so important to computer printing.


shutterstock_214348678This colour spectrum represents the absorption of light, which has the opposite effect to colours in the RGB colour space. When all of the primary colours in the CMYK colour space combine, they form black instead of white.

Often when printing, people can’t understand why their image or design doesn’t look like what they’ve created on screen, and the colours in particular don’t appear the same. The reason this occurs is because the CMYK colour space doesn’t include all of the colours that are visible in the RGB spectrum.

Start any work document by changing to CMYK colour space first

Once you convert a file from RGB to CMYK on your computer, you may notice some colour shifts which could require lengthy edits on your part. To avoid this hassle, start with the file in the CMYK colour spectrum to begin with. This will stop you from having any discrepancies between what you create on screen and what you are able to print out.

And it’s important to remember that even though computer screens use the RGB colour space, all of the colours in the CMYK colourspace are covered in RGB. So it is possible to display the CMYK colour space accurately on your computer monitor.

Knowing the different colour spectrums and how they work is essential when it comes to high quality graphic design and digital photo printing. The main priority is to know how best to utilise the colour spectrums to get the results you want every time you have to print a document, graphic, poster or image.

It is recommended that if you don’t feel confident, that you consult with a professional printing service to ensure that your finished work is everything you imagine it will be.