Colour management for print: converting to CMYK

When designing for print it is important to understand the differences between the different colour profiles and how this can impact the finished product. If a client comes to you with a finished design then it is down to you to know how to convert those colours to CMYK. Not only that, you’ll need to understand the printing process itself, and how different processes can produce different results. We’ve put together the ultimate guide on converting to CMYK.

RGB, CMYK and Pantone

Let’s first take a look at the main two colour profiles used in the design industry; RGB and CMYK.

RGB stands for red, green and blue, and is predominately used for online designs. Your computer screen and TV monitors work using RGB to recreate all of the different colours you see digitally. However, each screen will be calibrated differently and this means that what you see could differ from what someone else sees.

CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black, and this is the colour profile used in printing work. A modern day printer will use a combination of these colours to create a wide range of other colours on paper.

We also have Pantone colours – just to confuse matters even more. When someone designs an image, it tends to be created using Pantone colours. These then need to be converted into CMYK before they can be printed! Don’t worry, we’ve already covered converting to CMYK from Pantone right here (LINK). If you try printing in anything other than CMYK colours then you could have one unhappy client on your hands. However, some colour types (such as metallic) will need special ink, as they are unable to be printed using CMYK.

Designing for print

If a client comes to you with a logo they have designed, chances are it could have been created using RGB colour profiles. This is especially the case if it was designed originally for a website or to use online. Ideally, designs that are to be printed should use CMYK colour profiles, but this isn’t always the case. This is where your specialist knowledge of the printing industry comes into play!

You should be able to advise your client on the differences between the colour profiles listed above, whilst also being a pro in converting to CMYK. Some clients may want to go back to their Graphic Designer and have something made specifically for print, whereas others will want you to do the conversion for them.

Converting to CMYK

Depending on the software you use there should be a specific option that allows you to convert colours profiles into CMYK. Here are some of the most popular with a very brief how-to for each:

  • Adobe Photoshop
    For an existing file simply head to Image > Mode and then hit the CMYK button. If you’re creating a new file make sure you click CMYK mode beforehand.
  • Corel Draw
    Click on the object(s) you want to convert before selecting the fill tool. Now click ‘Fill Colour Dialog’ and ensure the model is set at CMYK. If the object has an outline then use the outline tool and outline colour dialog buttons.
  • Quark Xpress
    Head over to the menu and click on Edit > Edit Colours > Show Colours in Use > Highlight Colour and then hit Edit. Change the colour model to CMYK and make sure ‘Spot Colour’ is deselected.

Converting to CMYK becomes easier the more experience you have on the subject. Play around with some of your own designs and you’ll soon become an expert in your field.



Category: PRINTERS