GIMP for Printing

I’ll look for a more GIMP specific discussion group that I can post this question to, but I thought I might have some luck around here.

When people talk about Photoshop and CMYK support, they are really referring to more high end printing tasks that are directed at specific printing equipment, correct?

If I want to glue together surreal photos in GIMP (using a mix of Blender and real photos), I should be fine if I want to print these out. I should only start to worry if I have to incorporate my work into a context where the required colors are very specific.

Any input would be appreciated.


Hi Andy.

CYMK isnt a ‘high end printing task’ if i understand you correctly. Computer screens work in the ‘additive colour space’ which means you add colours together to make a colour - since our eyes mostly react to RGB these are our primary colours for tv, screens etc…

CYMK works on subtractive colour space, adsorbing certain colours from white light (white light consisting of the whole colour spectrum) to create a colour. if every colour but red is absorbed, then red is what we end up seeing.

Since RGB from the screens and CYMK produces certain colours that can not be accuratly represented in each, people work in ‘CYMK’ colour space in applications to avoid certain colours :slight_smile: There’s nothing highly specialised in cymk. here is a ice graph to represent this.

printing process can be simple inkjet printers to printing presses. the only difference is quality, speed, pricing etc… they all work under the cymk process - cymk is just the ‘in between colours’ so they apply to two ‘colours’. Some printing process are out there consisting of more colours but you dont need to worry about that…

you will be fine. i would advise you calibrate your monitor and convert rgb to cymk so things dont end up looking to dark, for example…

Thanks. I understood the additive vs. subtractive space; what I couldn’t get my head around was why some folks made such a big deal about it (apart from general internet whines). I didn’t realize that there were areas where one could go but the other couldn’t (and vice versa); I suppose that if you worked in print, that could end up being a big deal.

That clears things up quite a bit, thank you again.

an easier explanation is this: any printer (like your inkjet) or press, uses CMYK, that is the inks! Well, you can get into more inks for spot colors or Pantone inks…blah, blah…the problem is that in RGB you get a ton more colors. So, if you are using gimp, you can get the CMYK plugin. Or simply, let your printer do the color conversion.

By the way, I work at a printing company with a large prepress department…

Now, sometimes the printing company actually uses the RGB images, depending on the press. For example, where I work we have an Indigo press and you can use more than 4 colors. This is called, at least on the Indigo, IndieChrome and it uses an extra bright orange ink and a violet one. It’s just for fancy printing and to achieve certain effects.

Anyway, before I get to carried away: just work in RGB so that you get all the colors you want/need and then worry about conversion if you’re going to send it to a print shop. They’ll do a better job converting it to CMYK so that it looks the best on the press/inkjet they’re going to use as well as the paper.

Thanks for the additional perspective.

I think that my biggest concern was that by doing extensive work in RGB I would create difficulty for myself when finally switching to print. I think I’m satisfied that the only issue I’ll run into will be my skill set.


This is mentioned before, that is just not true. there’s an overlap between the 2 color spaces. Some colors don’t exist in RGB and vice versa.

From what I read about indichrome, it allows a wider color gamut than CMYK because of the extra 2 colors available. (which is cool) Are the colors and plates interchangable? (could you exchange them for a number of pantone colors if you for some reason really wanted to?)

Well, the Indigo doesn’t use interchangable plates, it is a digital press. Yes, you can get Pantone inks. It’s just a pain in the butt to clean the entire thing before changing the inks, a lot of wasted ink…I mean, normally we have just CMYK inks loaded, only special jobs get IndiChrome.

Also, as I said before, if you ever plan on sending something to print using IndieChrome, keep your images RGB as they’re sent to the Indigo as is.


If you use a printing press you can have pretty much as many plates as you like and as many colours as you like. You can also have Pantone inks replace your printer’s CYMK Inks, though more expensive and pretty much pointless.

What is often done is a 5th plate for a single pantone colour, like for a logo / brand identity where colour consistency is important ;). You can also get clear coats which give a slight raised ‘effect’ and glossy /reflective-ness :wink:

you can also have just 1 plate… you get the point :wink:


If you work in Cymk in an application, all that happens is colours out of the range shift to the nearest ‘valid colour’ I find this makes it look darker and thus some alteration may be needed. If it was original made in cymk there would be less possible tweeking to do but at the end of the day screen to print is never identical, which is why you get a proof printed first and sign it of !!! Your printer will then work with that to make sure your piece prints like it should.

you also get 4 channels instead of 3, which is important because each channel is for each colour and thus plate :wink:

there more important things related to commercial printing than cymk ;). Like bleed allowances and tapping / trapping :wink: