Thursday Tip: Choosing the Correct Color

May 28, 2009

There are many aspects to getting the right color. Part of the problem is calibrating your devices so the color you get on screen matches the color from your output devices. That is a massive subject that I tackle in my CorelDRAW X4 Unleashed book.

One of the first hurdles you need to overcome is choosing the right color model when designing. We basically have three color models: RGB, CMYK and spot. When to use each one can be a long discussion, but I’ll try to give the abbreviated version.

Spot colors are most often used in the world of screen printing and for offset printing when only a limited number colors is needed. Spot colors allow special inks for fluorescent, metallic and all kinds of other specialty colors that can’t be represented in other color models.

RGB has traditionally been used when designing for a screen. That would include Web design and PowerPoint presentations. I also use it for designing my CorelDRAW Unleashed books since they are delivered on screen. These days it is often the color model of choice for some printing methods. Garment printers may take CMYK ink, but they are seen as RGB devices by Windows. Many ink jet printers allows for more than four colors of ink so RGB will allow the printer to use the full gamut available with those extra inks. I even send RGB designs to a Xerox digital press because the software in the press gives me more vibrant colors than designing in CMYK.

CMYK has traditionally been used in the offset printing world. If you are designing in CMYK, make sure to invest in a good swatch book so you can specify colors from printed swatches instead of based on what you see on screen.

That is a quick overview of the three main color models and when they should be used. I’ve already listed some exceptions to the rules and there are certainly many more. If you don’t understand these models, please study up on them. I do cover them in more depth in my CorelDRAW X4 Unleashed book. Those of you who have a copy can simply go to the Working with Color chapter.

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Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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