Lab, RGB and CMYK – Color Spaces Explained

Color spaces are ways to organize colors into specific categories. A color space can be arbitrary, where colors recognizable in the physical world are assigned swatches and names, or have a mathematical organization plan. Color spaces are conceptual, and they help you understand the types of colors a device can produce.

What Are the Types of Color Spaces?

Think of a color space as encompassing any shade you can imagine based on the three primary colors — red, blue and green. Every color arising from any combination of these three falls within the color space. Typically, color spaces are developed on a diagram, which can be RGB or CMYK. How do you choose a color space? Dive into the definitions below to learn the basics.

Lab Color Space

One of the choices for measuring color is using lab color space. This space has the same components as others, though it is divided into lightness (L*) and two color components (a* stands for red and green value and b* stands for blue and yellow). The “lightness” is kept separate from the other parts because when you adjust it, the change more closely resembles human vision. In other words, if you use a lab color space and adjust the lightness, the outcome will look more “correct” to the human eye.

RGB Color Space

Red, blue and green are the primary colors, each of which is visible to the human eye. Visible colors are considered to be combinations of these three. To measure the possibilities of every color you can mix with red, blue and green, you can model an RGB color space, which is a three-dimensional plane in the shape of a cube with each color on an axis — a point’s position within the cube indicates its color makeup and saturation. The majority of digital images use an RGB color space.

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There is some debate over RGB versus Lab color for reproducing images. In many cases, sticking with RGB will suffice, though projects requiring careful color correction and toning can benefit from the adjustment capabilities of Lab.

CMYK Color Space

The cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black) color space is another option, which is typically used in printed materials. When working with CMYK, you start with a white base and add the ink. The ink absorbs and reflects different light levels, giving you the desired colors.

If you’re looking for color measurement solutions, get in touch with HunterLab. We understand the importance of color accuracy for industries of any type, and our partnerships range from food and beverage companies to biopharmaceuticals producers and beyond. We carry benchtop, portable and in-line color measurement products.

For more information or to request a quote, get in touch with the team at HunterLab today.