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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What’s new in Adobe Acrobat DC-July 2016

Acrobat DC gets another update this month with some modifications and refinements to recent new features – say goodbye to restarting to get the interface theme to change, yay!

Screenshot of Acrobat DC interface

All-new Adobe Acrobat DC with Adobe Document Cloud is here. It’s totally reimagined, with elegant new tool experiences that work consistently across desktop, web, and mobile – including touch-enabled devices.

Source: What’s new in Adobe Acrobat DC

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Quickly resize InDesign frames

It’s good practice to keep InDesign frames tight and accurate to their contents and there’s a small and little known trick for doing so.

Select the frame that’s too big (or too small) for its contents using the black arrow. Double click the middle bottom grab handle. The frame will snap to the bottom edge of the content. This works for graphic and text frames.

Screenshot of InDesign text frame with excess space
InDesign text frame with excess space


Screenshot of InDesign frame fitted to content
InDesign frame fitted to content
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Five ways to Edit PDFs using Acrobat Pro

Acrobat DC has the most sophisticated editing tools of any version of Acrobat. You can now edit the contents of any PDF file using Acrobat’s own tools or pass them to external editors (such as Illustrator or Photoshop) if you need to. After opening a PDF, select Edit PDF from the Acrobat Tools pane. Acrobat will open the document tab with the editing toolbar displayed at the top of the document window.

Screenshot of Acrobat Edit PDF function

1) Edit text. Select the Edit Text and Images icon and place the cursor the desired text. You can type straight into the text frame. Note that Acrobat will reflow the text and expand the frame if necessary as you type.

Screenshot of Acrobat Edit text functions
Edit text

2) Change text appearance. You can reformat the text by selecting it and changing the typeface, colour, size etc from the formatting options displayed in the right hand panel.

Screenshot of Acrobat Format text options
Format text

3) Add text. If you want to add text outside an existing text block, select the Add text icon and drag across the area you wish to type in. Acrobat will draw a new text frame.

Screenshot of Acrobat Add text function
Add text

4) Edit an object/image. Select the Edit icon then click an object or image. Use the Objects tools on the right to rotate, flip, crop or align.

Screenshot of Acrobat Edit Objects options
Edit Objects

5) Edit an object or image outside Acrobat. Select the object using the edit tool then either right click or use the Edit Using dropdown to choose the external editing application. By default, vector graphics will be edited by Adobe Illustrator and images will be edited by Adobe Photoshop where these applications are also installed. You can also choose different applications as you prefer.

Screenshot of Acrobat Edit Using right click function
Edit Using right click

Creativelab offers bespoke training and consultancy services in using Adobe Acrobat and PDFs, contact us if you’d like to know more.

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