Why should we change RGB to CMYK for print projects?
When you create a project for printing, it’s recommended you change RGB to CMYK to avoid potential color accuracy issues. The vast majority of printers for both home and commercial use employ a different color model from electronic display devices such mobile device screens and computer monitors.
Computer monitors use an RGB (red, green, black) color model, suited for getting a wide dynamic range of colors of a dark screen. In contrast printers tend to use CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and “key color” black) since most paper and card stocks are light colored. Changing your color model to CMYK lets you get an approximation of the color of your final prints, making it possible to adjust your file before you have it printed. Please note that the color you see on your screen may be different depending on how your monitor is calibrated.
What happens if we don’t change RGB to CMYK before printing?
If you don’t change RGB to CMYK before you print, your printer will automatically make the switch. The problem with this automated change is that you will not get to see an approximation of the end product until you get your final print, which can lead to an unpleasant surprise. Color disparities can be especially obvious on large format materials such as posters. This can be important for businesses that use specific colors as part of their branding.
If your design app allows it, it’s best to start any print project in CMYK, so color shifts will be easier to deal with. Converting at the end of your project can result in dramatic changes that will take more time to fix. But in any case, it’s always best to set your file as CMYK before sending it in for printing.
Here’s how to change RGB to CMYK on Adobe Photoshop CS6, Adobe Illustrator CS6, Corel Draw, QuarkXpress 8, and Microsoft Office Publisher.
How to change RGB to CMYK for popular apps:
Adobe Photoshop CS6
- On the menu bar, choose “Objects”
- Next, select “Image”
- Choose “Mode”
- Find and click on “CMYK Color”
Adobe Illustrator CS6
- Choose “Objects” on the menu bar
- Select the “Edit” option
- Choose and click “Edit Colors”
- Find and click on “Convert to CMYK”
- Select the object you want to change from RGB to CMYK
- On the menu bar, find and select the “Fill” tool
- Click on the “Fill Color” dialog box
- Find and select the “CMYK” option
- Click on “OK”
Repeat steps 1-5 for objects with an outline.
- Click on the “Outline” tool
- Choose the “Outline Color” dialog box
- Find and select “CMYK”
- Click on “OK”
Quark recommends exporting to PDF as the best way to change RGB to CMYK
- Find the menu bar and click on “File”
- Click on“Export”
- Choose “Export as PDF”
- Find and select “PDF Style”
- Select “All”
- Select “Press- High Quality/High Resolution”.
“Press- High Quality/High Resolution” is a QuarkXpress preset for making print-ready files. Choosing that option does the following to your file:
- Change RGB to CMYK.
- Change spot colors to CMYK
- Removes all live hyperlinks
- Uses high-res for rasters
- Saves computer resources by downsampling monochrome images with lossless compression
- Similarly, QuarkXpress downsamples grayscale images with low compression
All “PDF style” options in the “Export as PDF” dialog window can be adjusted.
Microsoft Office Publisher
- Go to the menu bar and select “Tools”
- Choose “Commercial Printing Tools”
- Find and click on “Color Printing”
- Select “Process Colors (CMYK)”
- Click on “OK”
Comment below to share additional tips and shortcuts on how to change RGB to CMYK for popular apps.
Arthur Piccio is a feature writer and subject matter expert for theUPrinting Blog.