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Chapter 5. Working in Color > The Basics of Color

The Basics of Color

Here’s a quick primer to help you understand what happens when you define and apply colors in your InDesign layout, as well as other programs. For more information on working with color in computer graphics applications, I recommend The Non-Designer’s Scan and Print Book, by Sandee Cohen and Robin Williams, published by Peachpit Press. I also recommend Pocket Pal Graphic Arts Production Handbook, now in its nineteenth edition, published by International Paper. You can order Pocket Pal at www.ippocketpal.com.

Type of colorHow it is usedHow it is createdComments
CMYKCMYK stands for the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks that are combined to create other colors. Also called process color, this is the primary type of color used in color printing. Most magazines and brochures are printed using the four process color inks.Use the Color palette set to CMYK or the New Color Swatch dialog box set to CMYK or the Color Picker in the CMYK mode.Color images are saved in the CMYK mode before they are imported into InDesign.
RGBRGB stands for the red, green, and blue lights that are used in computer monitors to display colors. Because RGB colors are based on lightwaves, not inks, there will always be a slight difference between colors defined as RGB and those defined as CMYK. RGB colors can be used to define colors for documents that will be displayed onscreen. But you should not use them for print work.Use the Color palette set to RGB or the New Color Swatch dialog box set to RGB or the Color Picker in the RGB mode.Most scanners save images as RGB files. You must use a program such as Adobe Photoshop to convert those images to CMYK.
LABThe LAB is another light-based color model that uses luminance (L) combined with green to red (A) plus yellow to blue (B). As with RGB, you should not define print colors using this system.Use the Color palette set to LAB or the New Color Swatch dialog box set to LAB or the Color Picker in the LAB mode. 
Spot colorsSpot colors are specialty colors that are printed without using the four process color inks. For instance, a metallic gold in a brochure is printed using metallic gold ink, not a combination of CMYK colors. Spot colors can be mixed to display colors that could not be created using simple CMYK colors.Use the New Color Swatch dialog box set to Spot.Spot colors can be defined by the user or you can use the commercial spot color libraries produced by companies such as Pantone and Dicolor and Toyo. Other names for spot colors are specialty, second color, fifth or sixth color, or flat colors.
TintsTints are colors that have been screened so that only a percentage of their color appears on the page.Tints can be created from named colors using the New Tint dialog box. 
Mixed inksMixed inks are combinations of at least one spot color and another spot or process color.Mixed inks can be created using the Swatches palette menu. One spot color must also have been previously defined.Mixed Ink Groups are combinations of different percentages for Mixed ink colors.



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