Converting to CMYK, Not Just a Button!

Many vendors will not accept RGB color space files, this is because all digital or offset printing machines use CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) inks to produce your print. RGB (Red, Green, Blue) are the primary colors of light and is a screen viewing color space used by your electronic devices and is capable of creating millions of vibrant colors that can not be replicated by the much darker pigments of CMYK. The RGB to CMYK translation at your vendor can result in some very unexpected and unacceptable shifts, in some extreme cases even converting to the opposite side of the spectrum, i.e., Yellow turns Purple.

  • Photoshop: First be sure to set your color preferences to the proper profiles for your desired print environment. Once you have done that, open the RGB file and under the Image menu click “Mode” and choose “CMYK Color.” You may need to adjust color balance and black levels at this point.
  • Corel Photo-Paint: Under the Tools menu choose “Color Management” then “Document Settings” for the whole document or click “Image” then click “Convert to CMYK” for an individual image file. Click here for more help.
  • Adobe InDesign: First be sure to set your color preferences to the proper profiles for your desired print environment. Make sure all of your placed image links are CMYK under the Window menu click “Links” each link will have information on its color space and resolution that show up in link info when you click on the link name. Convert any RGB links to CMYK using Photoshop.
    Check that all color swatches used in your design are CMYK: under the Window Menu, click “Color” then choose “Swatches”. Each swatch will have a little icon telling you if it’s CMYK or RGB if you need to convert a swatch double click the color and change the color mode to CMYK in the Swatch Options dialog box.

  • Adobe Illustrator: First be sure to set your color preferences to the proper profiles for your desired print environment. Under the File menu click “document color mode” for CMYK.
    Confirm that any linked or embedded images are CMYK by opening the original file in your raster image editor (Photoshop) and converting it if necessary. For the most part colors will convert to CMYK when you change the document color mode, however you can check individual colors in the design by selecting the color object then under the Window menu click “color” to convert it to CMYK. If you need to select all objects that use that color, you can choose the Select menu and click “Same” and choose the option that’s best for you to grab all colors you need. If you used color swatches or spot colors, in the Swatches dialog box, double click each swatch to convert it to CMYK.
  • CorelDraw select each object you want to convert, double click on the color swatch at the bottom right to bring up the Fill Color Dialog, change the palette dropdown to CMYK Palette and click ok.
    Confirm that any linked or embedded images are CMYK by opening the original file in your raster image editor (Photoshop or Corel Photo-Paint) and converting it if necessary. Click here for more help.
corel draw changing color palette from RGB to CMYK
  • QuarkXpress under the Edit menu click “colors” for the dialog box, from here you can select the color and click “Edit” and change the Model drop down menu to CMYK. Confirm that any linked or embedded images are CMYK by opening the original file in your raster image editor (Photoshop or Corel Photo-Paint) and converting it if necessary. Click here for more help.

Programs like Canva, Artweaver or GIMP may not output a CMYK file easily, talk with your vendor on how best to convert your files before you attempt it with online tools.