Before sending your artwork off to print, it’s always worth double checking the colour mode of the file. This is important, as it affects the way the colours will look when printed.

We always recommend you work with CMYK when designing anything for print; everything from t-shirts to tote bags, hoodies and sweatshirts. If you’d like to print something with us using either DTG printing or litho transfer printing, we ask that you submit your artwork as a CMYK file. You’ll fine out why if you keep reading…

Whether you’re creating images from scratch or editing a previously scanned drawing in Adobe Photoshop, you will be able to change the colour mode of the file by clicking Image > Mode in the top toolbar. You will see there are a lot of different options available but, with full-colour designs, the only two you need to really worry about are RGB and CMYK.

If you’re working in Adobe Illustrator, you can change the colour mode by clicking File > Document Colour Mode in the top toolbar.

changing colour modes in photoshop

Above: How to change the colour mode of your file in Adobe Photoshop

The most important thing to remember about RGB and CMYK is that one is used for electronic displays and the other is used for print.

RGB (Red, Green, Blue) is best suited for images that’ll only ever be viewed on a screen. So it’s ideal if you need to create a website graphic or put together some pictures for a presentation. It works by mixing different amounts of red, green and blue to make a colour. Each individual colour is measured by a value, which ranges from 0 to 255. The image will appear white when every value is set at 255, and black when set at 0.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key, or Black) is usually reserved for print-based projects. Most printers use CMYK colours, which are created by mixing different amounts of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. But unlike RGB, these values are measured using percentages. This lets the printer know exactly how much of each ink to use. The image will appear white when every value is set at 0%, and black when set at 100%.

You can see the values of any colour in Photoshop by double clicking the swatch at the bottom of the toolbar on the left hand side of your screen.

rgb and cmyk values in Photoshop

Above: A look at the RGB and CMYK values of ICON purple

Most printers will struggle to print RGB colours. This will be particularly noticeable if you use vibrant colours in your design. Even though they may look bright and punchy on screen, they’ll appear dull and washed out when printed.

You can find out more about the different printing and finishing techniques we offer, as well as the artwork specifications for each one, by visiting our services page.