RGB? CMYK? Funny You Should Ask

What RGB Means To Me
What RGB Means To Me

Here’s what RGB means to me today: My cranky Epson R1800 printer demanded more difficult-to-find $20 ink cartridges before I could make the prints my client requested.

Once I complied, I was able to make these prints from my Vanishing Austin  photography series, which may or may not cover every color under the sun, but certainly sucked up a lot of the RGB ink I had on hand.

Vanishing Austin_Texas Proud Since 1964
Texas Proud Since 1964 by Jann Alexander © 2013

First Encounters, 2004 by Jann Alexander ©2014

Vanishing Austin Lonely Bus by Jann Alexander ©2004
Lonely Bus by Jann Alexander ©2004

Ever wonder what RBG means? The affectionate shorthand a layperson uses to define the colors of the rainbow is ROY G. BIV. (Back to kindergarten if you can’t work out the acronym for those seven colors.) But when it comes to displaying or printing those colors accurately, designers and printers rely upon other shorthand for the space color occupies. And there’s a great deal to know about colorspace, technically, when you’re making prints, shooting photographs, displaying images on a computer screen and printing them on a commercial press for publication. Still, it all comes down to these letters of the alphabet:

  • RGB for your inkjet printer settings (Red-Green-Blue)
  • sRGB for your computer display and probably your default camera profile (standard Red-Green-Blue)
  • CMYK for your commercial printing press (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black)

Confusing, isn’t it? Make a mistake on the color profile, as the industry buffs call it, and be surprised by some ugly printed or displayed results. When in doubt, consult a professional. Results may vary.

That’s the short answer. But probably more than you ever wanted to know about colorspace, right? 

Endangered Species of Austin, poster by Jann Alexander © 2009
Endangered Species of Austin poster

About my Vanishing Austin series: While many Austin landmarks are lost, many are survivors still. Admire them all in a slideshow, HERE. Prints start at $35.

You can marvel at what’s lost and what’s survived in my Endangered Species of Austin poster, featuring 16 Austin icons, and sized at a handsomely large 24 x 36,” available for $25, HERE.

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7 thoughts on “RGB? CMYK? Funny You Should Ask

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  1. Roy G Biv must be an Americanism, although it has an OK ring to it. In all our Physics lectures, it was always “VIBGYOR”. You can pronounce it and it remains engraved on my brain 😉

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