One of the biggest problems I see people grapple with when trying to print photographs and graphics out on their color inkjet printers is that the finished product doesn’t always come out the way you expect it to. I spend a good deal of my time in my day job helping people fix their wonky documents and get the best possible result when trying to showcase their work in printed form. So Why not spread the love even more and distill the information into a small article for you. I have a couple of short tips and some terminology to help you out. However with a topic as huge and as technical as this its better broken up into usable chunks.

  • DPI: Dots Per Inch, but basically think of this as how dense the information is layered into your document. The higher this number is the more detailed your photo can appear.
  • CMYK: The primary colors of pigment, Cyan Magenta Yellow and Black.
  • RGB: Red green and blue, the three primary colors of light.
  • Lossy: A file type that losses small amounts of data when you save to it through compression
  • Lossless: A file type which retains all information when saving to it.
  • Spectrum: The gamut of color in a given range. RGB and CMYK have different spectrums that they are capable of producing.

First thing you need to do is understand that after you took that awesome picture with your digital camera the camera captured all of the information in front of the lens and stored it as a file of RGB data. Meaning that it recorded the image it saw as percentages of red green and blue. Your printer will be printing these same pictures as CMYK. The RGB spectrum and the CMYK spectrum can represent most colors very well but there are certain areas where they don’t match up.

Certain colors you need to be aware of that have issues printing are deep blues, fleshtones, and yellows. That s not to say that they can’t be printed but that it is very possible that the output might differ from what you expect. These colors exist in parts of the spectrum of visible light where there is no direct CMYK translation for the color. This is one of the reasons printers have started coming out with additional inks such as green, orange, red and blue inks to try and expand the spectrum of printable color.

In photoshop there is an option the change the mode for the document from RGB to CMYK. Doing this will save you a lot of trouble in getting professional results.

Hopefully this little tip on the differences between the two spectrums helps you understand why not all of your pictures print the right way. Stay tuned as we release more tips in the coming days.