When should I convert images to CMYK?

This is a question we’re asked regularly and it causes some confusion. Images are generally captured using the RGB colour mode but, for printing, they need to be defined as CMYK mode. Think of it as the difference between screen viewing and printing.

Image of screen and printer icons

The initials RGB represent the primary colours of the screen mode – Red, Green and Blue, CMYK represents the primary colours of printing – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (Black being represented as K or the Key colour).

In the early days of desktop publishing, images were converted to CMYK using Photoshop before they were placed into a design application like Illustrator, QuarkXPress or InDesign. This process can be time consuming and creates a variety of inconvenient side-effects. The CMYK colour mode is adapted for specific printing processes and machinery and has a reduced colour range compared to RGB so CMYK images so are not suitable for reuse in many other media. A further benefit from leaving images as RGB is that much of Photoshop only works in RGB mode so, if you convert an image you’ll find a substantial amount of Photoshop’s editing capabilities are disabled.

The good news is, this process is no longer necessary, as long as you are exporting your  document to a PDF using a preset which includes a colour conversion.

Screenshot of Photoshop Convert to CMYK mode


Let’s explain that further. The typical way to change colour modes in Photoshop is to manually select Image>Mode>CMYK Color, however,  as all Adobe applications use the same colour engine, you can perform an RGB to CYMK conversion at any point in your workflow using any Adobe application. If you are sending print-ready PDF’s to your print provider, you can automate the conversion by placing RGB images into InDesign or Illustrator and creating a PDF using choosing a preset such as PDF/X-1a2001 or Press Quality. These presets contain a built-in conversion which will convert any images to CMYK automatically. The original pictures will remain untouched, leaving you free to reuse them for output in other media without making duplicates.

Screenshot of InDesign Export to PDF

SCreenshot of second step of InDesign export to PDF process

This does not automate creative processes such as colour correction, retouching or sharpening and these should be carried out in Photoshop in conjunction the various soft proofing tools such as Proof Colours and Gamut Warning.

In cases where you intend to send open InDesign files and links to your print provider this approach is not suitable (unless you’ve agreed that your print provider will perform the conversion). For most people, however,  converting on export to PDF offers a much quicker and more efficient way to ensure images are correctly adjusted for print.

To learn more about working with colour with Creative Cloud, contact us.


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Got Adobe Creative Cloud? Got questions?

Everyone finds things out online but have you ever measured how long you spend looking for answers to Adobe or design and print related questions? and did you get exactly the answers you needed? The web is a black hole for time and attention and it can be difficult to find the answer you’re looking for. That’s why it still pays to use an expert. Creativelab has been Adobe certified since 2006 and  has decades of experience in the design, print and publishing industry. We can troubleshoot problems, provide answers to your specific questions, we can also train you in getting the best from your applications and, best of all, we’re there if you have follow-up questions or need more advice.

We like to think of ourselves as your extra pair of hands, your creative collaborator and your technical helpdesk.

If you need help with Adobe Creative Cloud, training, design or publishing, please do get in touch. We’ll be happy to help.

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New Year, New Skills: Colour Management

New year new skills, colour management illustration


Do your images print too dark? Does your logo look the wrong colour? If you’re baffled and frustrated by colour issues, creativelab offers training and troubleshooting in colour management. Most people are unfamiliar with the complexities of colour and the rules their software packages use to describe it, this can create unpredictable and expensive results.

Image of calibration sheet and loupe magnifying glass

creativelab can show you how to set your software up to manage colour correctly, make sure your colour output is predictable across your design workflow and make sure your colours work predictably in all media.

Image of print swatch book

We’ll explain:
Colour profiles
Colour conversions
Monitor and printer calibration
Soft proofing
Measuring colour output

We can also carry out a colour health-check on your systems, identifying potential problems and recommending solutions.

To find out more, email us or call 07834 237 133

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Adobe Bridge, Creative Cloud’s productivity secret weapon

I wrote this post in 2014 on my previous Scott Russell Publishing Services blog. As I still encounter people who don’t know about Bridge I thought it was worth revisiting.

Screenshot of Adobe Creative Cloud apps

Adobe Bridge is often overlooked yet it is one of Creative Cloud’s most surprising and powerful tools. If Bridge is still languishing, uninstalled, in your Creative Cloud apps list, here are ten killer features to get you using it…

  • Batch import & store images: Bridge can import images direct from your camera (or card reader) and store them in a location of your choice. It can also rename and make copies simultaneously.

  • Batch Apply metadata: Bridge makes it easy to develop your own metadata preset (containing your choice of key information such as keywords, description, copyright information and contact details) and can apply to batches of files when you need it.

  • Run the Camera Raw plugin: Many Photographers swear by Camera Raw’s unparalleled range of adjustment tools. What many people don’t realise is that Camera Raw is actually a plug-in that can be run in either Photoshop OR Bridge. Opening images in the Raw plug-in via Bridge leaves Photoshop free to do other tasks.

  • Browse files used inside InDesign documents: Designers are often frustrated by trying to locate files they imported into older InDesign documents. Bridge can browse the contents of any InDesign file and display the results just like any other search.

  • Create PDF contact sheets: Creating contact sheets is a necessary but time-consuming part of the designer and photographer’s workflow. Bridge’s output workspace can build bespoke contact sheets (with watermarks, file names, grid layouts and coloured backgrounds) and export them to PDF in seconds.

  • Smart searches: Bridge can search intelligently to find keywords, aspect ratios, colour modes, resolution and many other aspects of your files. Better still, it can save searches for rapid re-use later.

  • Place files into other apps: Having located a file within Bridge, it’s easy to drop it (or them) into your desired document by using the Place command.

  • Rating and prioritising: Rate and prioritise files using Bridge’s star ratings and colour coding system, allowing you to filter files according to your priorities. The wording of the labels is also customisable.

  • Filtering: When browsing any directory (or search result) Bridge can filter by many different criteria including file type, aspect ratio, colour profile, keyword, rating etc making identifying the file you want fast and straightforward.

  • Preview multi-page files: Save hours by browsing the actual pages of InDesign, Illustrator and PDF files, right in Bridge’s preview pane without waiting for the original file and application to open.Screenshot of Adobe Bridge


For more information on using Bridge in your Adobe workflow please contact us.

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