Digital printing

Digital printing uses the CMYK colour model along with cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks to output digital files onto paper and other sheet materials.

All modern printers have built-in colour profiles that enable both device-dependent and device-independent RGB colour spaces to be converted to CMYK.

  • Digital printers typically overlay highly reflective white paper with cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks or toner.
  • CMYK is a subtractive colour model so is suited to working with inks.
  • Printing has a smaller gamut than TV, computer and phone screens which rely on light emission, rather than reflection of light off sheets of paper.
  • Digital displays produce comparatively brighter colours than printers because the amplitude of each wavelength of light is larger than can be achieved by a printer.
  • Digital printers produce dull and less intense colours than displays because the amplitude of each wavelength of light is smaller when light is reflected off paper through inks.
  • A display device, such as a computer screen, starts off dark and emits red, green and blue light to produce colour.
  • CMYK inks are the standard for colour printing because they have a larger gamut than RGB inks.
  • Highlights are produced on digital printers by printing without black to allow the maximum amount of light possible to shine through and reflect off the paper.
  • Mid tones rely on the brightness and transparency of the inks and the reflectivity of the paper to produce fully saturated colours.
  • Shadows are produced by adding black to both saturated and desaturated hues.