In @Scott's answer to this question Best format to save Photoshop artwork for printing?, he states that most home printers will more accurately reproduce the colors from an RGB image than a CMYK image.

However, all of the inkjet and laser printers that I have ever used at home use CMYK inks/toners. So, I would think that using CMYK colors would result in more accurate color reproduction.

Assuming Scott is correct (and based on his reputation and profile, I completely believe he is), why would printers with CMYK colors be more accurate when converting from an RGB color profile?

After reading the response mentioned in Scott’s comment, I want to clarify what I am asking slightly.

Why in the heck doesn’t a printer that uses CMYK simply use the percentages of each ink as specified in the file that it is printing? Assuming I could configure my design software and monitor to match a (hypothetical) color profile provided by the printer manufacturer, it would seem more efficient for the printer to simply use the specified percentages for each ink color. So why doesn’t printing on a desktop printer work that way?

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Incorrect Colors When Printing From Illustrator -- Although this link refers to a specific printer model. All non-postscript inkjets operate essentially the same way.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 2:12
  • The answer to the linked question is interesting. I had no idea that a printer did all of those color conversions before printing. But it still leaves me with my original question (which I have hopefully clarified now). Why can’t the printer use the percentages of CMYK that are included within the document already? I feel like I am missing some sort of fundamental knowledge about color reproduction here.
    – magerber
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 2:52
  • Because the printer doesn't know what CMYK is... Don't confuse CcYyMmK with CMYK they are different. The manufactures never bothered to create drivers which understand CMYK. 99% of users wont' ever even try to print CMYK files. Note that inkjet printers with a postscript level 3 RIP will understand CMYK color. But printers with a Postscript level 3 support are more expensive and not as common.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 3:36

1 Answer 1


Because consumers are most likely using programs like Word, browser, etc. that have no idea what CMYK is. Alternatively, they are making hard copies of photos which also are RGB by default and simple image manipulation software again do not know what CMYK is.

There is then no advantage for the printer designer to design the printer to support CMYK, in fact its a clear disadvantage. See in consumer space such things as ease of use and vivid images is more important than controllability, repeatability and uniform design. So they skip this phase. This allows them to use much wider gamut to begin the process and use novel ink setups.

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