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A Crash Course in Image Sizes and Colour Modes

A Crash Course in Image Sizes and Colour Modes

Whether creating a PowerPoint presentation or printing out photographs for a friend, most people at some stage in their careers will have to deal with images. There are a few handy tips that will help you understand more about images and their colour modes, preventing undesired results. These tips are especially useful for those involved in professional print jobs, but without a degree in graphic design.


Have you ever printed out a picture or logo that looked way better on screen? Or maybe you have uploaded an image to a website and it looked wrong? Maybe the ‘colour mode’ of your image was wrong. There are two main colour modes for images; RGB and CMYK.

RGB (which stands for red, green, blue) is the colour mode for web images or images meant to be seen on-screen. This is not to say that you can’t print a RGB image on your office printer, however if need it for a document that is to be professionally printed, RGB is not acceptable. It is also worth mentioning that vivid colors and neons can be achieved with RGB on-screen.

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is the colour mode most printers work in so images for professional print will need to be set to or provided in this mode. If you were to take an image of a logo that on-screen looked neon green (for example) and then changed the colour mode to CMYK, you would see the neon green fade to more of a dull, boring green. This is because CMYK colour system cannot create vivid colours. This is something to think about when choosing a colour palette for a new brand or packaging.

Neon Colours on Screen compared to CMYK printer

If you have your heart set on business cards or packaging with vivid colours then you will need a graphic designer to set the artwork using the Pantone colour system. Professional printing using this system is much more expensive in low run jobs, but it’s the best way to get the exact colours you are after, choosing from a range of swatches that include neons.

So now you know, there is more to colours than meets the eye! And with each printer varying slightly and each computer monitor looking different, you may now understand why graphic designers can pull their hair out wrestling with colours.



An image setting that is much easier to control is size. There are two parts to this; dimensions and resolution, and again on-screen images must be treated differently to printed. Pictures destined for professional print (which you now know should be in CMYK) typically need to be 300dpi (dots per inch) whereas those of the same overall dimensions but intended for on-screen use, only need to be around 100dpi. This is because computer screens have a lower resolution (or number of dots per inch) than professional printers.

Difference between images printed at 300dpi and 72dpi

Now being more aware of the different image modes you will find it easier to work with graphic designers and printers to achieve a desired result. You might also now find it easier to create professional looking presentations and materials. If you would like to go one step further and control the image settings yourself, here is a handy online tool which is quite similar to photoshop.

You will find both the colour modes and image size settings in the ‘Image’ menu.

Let us know if these tips have been helpful to you or if you have any further questions.

Posted in: Design

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