Photoshop Top 40, Feature #6: RGB, CMYK, and Lab

Color is a wild beast. One that you admire, exalt, and even brood over. But the second you think you have it figured out, it can change on you. It looks different in print, it transforms on the Web. Color cannot be caged and will not be tamed.

Even so, Photoshop tries. It knows you adore color. But it also knows the beast. Photoshop sees color for what is it, a 3D landscape of luminance levels, clawing at each other and competing for your attention.

There is RGB, the creature that is captured. And CMYK, the monster chained and offered to the world. And finally there is Lab, the beast itself.

RGB and CMYK are the wildest of varieties, perhaps because they are the least representative. Lab is you-on-color, terrifying at first until you discover that you are in possession of the whip. I’m not advocating that you actually whip your colors. (That would be . . . meaningless!) But I show you how to wield the whip so you can keep the beast at bay.

Out of several hundred guesses, we had three spot on and three very close. This week’s winner is NigelWorwood of Sarisbury Green, Hampshire, England, who guessed exactly, precisely “RGB CYMK and Lab.” Sarisbury Green is about 32 miles southeast of Stonehenge, which must be why Nigel is so familiar with mysterious creatures like color. Congratulations, Nigel!

Now it’s time to guess Feature #5. Hint: I have an entire video series devoted to this topic. And it’s the only such topic that I haven’t touched on in a previous Photoshop Top 40. Keep an eye out for my newsletter in your email inbox.

This week’s beastly photograph is file #4511997 from Oleg Kozlov of the Fotolia image library. For an exclusive dekeOnline deal, click this link.

(For a list of all Photoshop Top 40 videos thus far, click here.)

Photoshop Top 4 is available as a downloadable podcast from iTunes. Click here to subscribe. dekePod subscribers will get the videos automatically.

Best of luck on Feature #5!

Next entry:Russell Brown’s “2010: A Photoshop Odyssey”

Previous entry:Photoshop Top 40, Feature #7: Undo, History, and Revert


  • #5 Contest

    I recieved the newsletter but none of the links work in the email. Where can I find the link to enter my answer for #5?

  • Top 40 #6

    What about the hint: ‘Two will vary, one is fixed’? Could you elaborate on this, Deke? I guessed ‘Pixel Dimensions, Document Size and Resolution’ (if one varies one of these, a second one will vary too, but the third one will be remain fixed), but unfortunately that was not the right one smile.

  • logo

    wish i had this 4 months ago! created a logo & had a terrible experience with the printing company…. as well as trying to make the blue correct on screen! deke makes life simple.

  • Guessing where I need to guess

    So I take it we DON’T guess in the comments section eh?

  • Link to #5

    My links worked.  Maybe your security settings?

  • CMYK


    Thanks, CMYK and Newspaper Ads .....  Sigh.

    Now I know not to go back and forth. I sort of guessed that but in a pinch .. well good I will lock that in, never go

    back and forth RGB, CMYK. It is great if you get it right and they get all CMYK.

    But- really awful results if you screw up.

    anyway this helps.  Now, I just need a system for organizing our Photos I have so many versions of the same photo.

    On another note: I agree your hint last week was pretty misleading. I mean how is Lab fixed?

    Still,  I am addicted to these Videos


    Class at 3Am   yea!!

  • Two will vary, one is fixed

    RGB and CMYK are device-dependent color spaces. So the color orange, say, is an unprofiled RGB image may appear more red on one screen and more yellow on another. An equivalent orange in a CMYK image will print in any number of ways from one output device t the next.

    Lab is fixed. It’s hard-wired as CIEL*a*b* D50, which is a specific device-independent space. Assuming proper monitor calibration and exacting printer profiles, a Lab orange should always appear orange.

  • Well, for example

    Among RGB, there are sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB. Among CMYK, there are US Web Coated (SWOP), Japan Web Coated (Ad), and US Sheetfed Uncoated. Just to name a very few.

    But Photoshop offers one and only one Lab: CIEL*a*b* D50.

    Hence two vary and one is fixed.

  • Two will vary, one is fixed

    Ok, I see. Thanks for your clear explanation.

  • request

    I am fan., just maybe slightly addicted. I have been using photoshop for years. Now I am actually learning
    it.  I have a request for your videos. Could you just slow down a tich, an iota, a bit. Yes, I use pause but…..

    I know too slow and folks sleep but sakes alive you lose me allot. It then becomes easy to tune out.  Then I have to replay later. Makes me cranky.I like the shortcuts, all that, It is just that… I bet I am not the only one who gets to these videos about midnight,  after work, dinner, walk the dog, chores, and excedrine.

    Thanks for listening


  • readable tutorial

    is there a readable tutorial here? my connection is really slow, i cannot access the video itself.g

  • Adobe Flash player


    Adobe Flash plug-in is incompatible with Windows 7. Is it possible to view the top 40 videos on Quicktime or Windows Media Player?

  • Nevermind

    Got it late Sat.  Thanks for the chance to Win Cool Stuff!

  • Windows 7

    Isn’t the issue, I have it too and it works fine.  Do you have all the latest updates, and most current Flash Player installed?  Also if you subscribe to the itunes download they will save to your hard drive and be veiwable on Quicktime.

  • screen resolution calculation

    Hey Deke, found this nifty free screen ruler that actually calculates the screen rez for you:

  • Very useful info

    Hope to see more posts soon!

  • Thanks for

    Giving good information!

  • Attractive post. I just

    Attractive post. I just stumbled upon your blogpost and wish to say that I have really enjoyed analysis your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I expect you post again shortly.

  • I must say one thing that

    I must say one thing that you are truly a mind blowing writer and great founder for amazing and surprising things .keep exploring your talent

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