Color Models in InDesign Creative Suite 5 - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

Adobe InDesign CS5 offers three color models. To get excellent print quality, it is important to understand the models and when to apply them. You can use any of the three kinds of color models in InDesign CS5: CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black), RGB (Red, Green, Blue), and LAB colors.

A color model is a system used for representing each color as a set of numbers or letters (or both). The best color model to use depends on how you plan to print or display your document:

  • If you’re creating a PDF that will be distributed electronically and probably not printed, use the RGB color model. RGB is how colors are displayed on a computer monitor.

  • You must use the CMYK color model if you’re working with process color: Instead of having inks that match specified colors, you have four ink colors layered to simulate a particular color.

    Note that the colors on the monitor may differ from the ones that are printed. Sample swatch books and numbers can help you determine which colors you need to use in a document to match colors printed in the end.

  • If you know that the document needs to be printed by professionals who determine what each color is before it’s printed, it doesn’t matter whether you use RGB, PMS (Pantone Matching System), or LAB colors.

    Make sure to use named colors (predetermined swatches are a good idea) so that the service provider knows which color should be printed. In this case, you’re using spot colors, which are mixed inks that match the colors you specify in InDesign.