Correct file formats: RGB and CMYK

If you’re starting out as a designer, one of the most confusing aspects of computer-based graphic design is the difference between RGB and CMYK color modes, as well as the difference between various file formats.

Although this subject is brought up countless of times in the design blogosphere, I believe it was never explained in a way that’s simple, easy to remember and most importantly, easy to work with.

So here we go.

Understanding and using the RGB color model

Simply put, RGB color model is a technology for mixing (R)ed, (G)reen and (B)lue light in order to produce any imaginable color. This technology and color mixing process is used by all computer screens and electronic devices.

How this truly works is beyond the scope of this article. In short, your computer screen, laptop, cellphone and most other electronic devices are small miracles capable of showing millions of colors just by mixing various intensities of red, green and blue light.

Your computer screen is coloring each pixel in this image by mixing different intensities of red, green and blue light. For example, certain purple pixels in this image are rendered by combining RGB values shown on the right.

As a designer, you have direct control over this process because you can manually adjust the RGB intensity of each pixel in order to get the color you want — the higher the values, the brighter the colors (just like turning on more lights gives you a brighter room).

You should always design in RGB color mode if your final artwork is going to be used on computer screens or digital devices. This includes:

  • user interfaces
  • websites
  • web banners
  • icons
  • any other design piece intended for electronic use

All major design applications offer you instant color model presets for web and other types of RGB artwork.

Check if your document is properly set up for RGB work

When creating a new file, make sure that the new document window shows proper settings:

  • For Illustrator:  select “Web”  in the New Document Profile dropdown
  • For Photoshop:  select “Web” in the Preset dropdown, then make sure the resolution box shows 72
  • For CorelDRAW: select “Web” in the  Preset destination dropdown

Deliver final RGB files to client

While JPEG is the format of choice for submitting design entries, the final RGB files should be delivered according to this checklist:

  • Website layouts: PSD (zipped)
  • User interfaces: PSD (zipped)
  • Icons: PNG (include original PSD or AI file if requested by client)
  • Web banners:  PNG, GIF (include original PSD or AI if requested by client)

Never use TIFF, EPS, PDF or BMP file formats to deliver RGB artwork, as they serve a completely different purpose. Learn more on the different file formats by checking out File Formats Explained: PDF, PNG and More.

The world of CMYK printing

Using RGB is great if your design will be used on screen but if there is even the slightest chance of your artwork is being printed, you need to create files in CMYK color mode.

Each tone and color in the business card above was mixed by layering different amounts of cyan, magenta , yellow and black ink. The illustration on the right shows the ink mixture for a specific hue of green.

Unlike computer screen, a printer cannot use light to paint colors on paper, which is why it has to use the next best thing — plain ole’ ink.

All desktop and professional printers mix four different ink colors — (C)yan, (M)agenta, (Y)ellow and (K)ey (Black) which is abbreviated as CMYK.  These four colors can be mixed together in varying amounts and produce thousands of different shades and hues on paper.

But as you can imagine, mixing CMYK inks is very different than mixing RGB lights. For example, if more lights are added to RGB it produces brighter colors where as adding more ink in CMYK produces darker colors. In RGB, White is defined with the maximum value of each color channel (R:255,G:255,B:255), while in CMYK mode it’s defined as a complete lack of color (C:0%,M:0%,Y:0%,K:0% ).

RGB can give you very bright and nice colors (after all, it’s a light show) that are impossible to produce using inks. If you forget about this, you might end up with a great online design that looks quite dull when printed.


This logo was created in RGB but it’s colors are so bright that they cannot be reproduced using CMYK inks. Bad idea.

Luckily, you don’t have to worry about this because your design application can imitate the colors of  CMYK printing system and create the appropriate files.

Check if your document is properly set up for CMYK print work

Follow these guidelines when creating documents for print:

  • For Illustrator: on the New document window, make sure to select “Print” in the New Document Profile dropdown.
  • For InDesign: on the New document window, make sure to select “Print” in the Intent dropdown.
  • For CorelDRAW: on the New document window, select “Default CMYK”  in the Preset Destination dropdown.
  • For Photoshop: on New document window, select RGB as color mode and set resolution to 300 dots per inch. Immediately after that, turn on CMYK color imitation (View > Proof colors). When done, convert your final document to CMYK color mode (Image > Mode > CMYK > Flatten) then save the file under a different name. Use this file to finalize your print design in Illustrator, InDesign or CorelDRAW. Note that you can also create CMYK files right from the start (just pick CMYK mode on the New document window), but this will prevent you from using certain effects and functions.

Why 300 DPI?

Besides CMYK inks, an important piece of the printing world is the image resolution, expressed in DPI or PPI (which stands for Dots Per Inch or Pixels Per Inch, which is the same thing).

Printers are different creatures than computer screens. While computer screens need 72×72 pixels to show a 1×1 inch image (72 DPI), printers need at least 300 pixels for each inch in order to show the image in the same size and quality.

Although it’s quite large on the screen, the image on the left will print well only as 1” x 0.76” thumbnail because quality printing requires at least 300 DPI.

That’s why creating a 10×10 inch image at 300 DPI in Photoshop will give you a file measuring 3,000 pixels in width and height — very large on screen but just 10×10 inches of quality print.

Therefore, always create files at 300 DPI resolution if you intend to print them. Make sure to remember that resizing an existing image to 300 DPI is not an option as it will only duplicate existing pixels and give you a blurry image — you have to create artwork with enough pixels from the very beginning.

If you want to check at which size your existing photos and other artwork can print well, simply divide their pixel dimensions by 300. For example, a 1280 x 1024 pixel photo will print well at 4.26 x 3.42 inches — anything larger than that will make it blurry

Note:  you don’t have to worry about DPI for vector objects created in Illustrator or CorelDRAW — they print well at any size. The DPI relates only to bitmap images traditionally handled by Photoshop.

Deliver correct CMYK printing files to client

The industry standard for CMYK file delivery is a properly prepared PDF:

  • For Illustrator: Go to File > Save As > “Adobe PDF” from the Save As Type dropdown box. A window will open prompting you to select PDF settings — all you need to do is select “Illustrator Default” from the Adobe PDF preset dropdown box, then hit Save. This will produce PDF file which is both ready for print and editable by Illustrator.
  • For InDesign: Go to File > Adobe PDF Presets > Press quality.  A window will appear allowing you to adjust many prepress settings, but you can safely hit Export and In Design will create a proper PDF file for professional printing.
  • For CorelDRAW: Go to File > Publish to PDF , then pick “Prepress” from the PDF preset dropdown box.  This will produce print ready PDF file which can be opened by any Adobe application as well.

In addition to this PDF file, you may export your design to other file formats requested by client (usually EPS or AI), but make sure to communicate that PDF is basically all they need because it can be opened and used by virtually any design software.

Wrapping up

Understanding the difference between RGB and CMYK is an essential piece of design every designer must know.

The bottom line is rather simple: while RGB uses light to mix colors on screen, CMYK uses ink to mix them on paper. These are very different processes but easily managed by your design application if you create the files with proper settings.

Because they are so different, RGB and CMYK have different file formats for final delivery. Learn more about these different file formats by checking out File Formats Explained: PDF, PNG and More.

Do you have any questions about RGB and CMYK file formats? Ask us in the comments!

Peter Vukovic is a seasoned designer & creative director with 10 years of experience in worldwide advertising agency. He is a proud member of the 99designs community.
Peter Vukovic
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Peter's website


  1. Arslan

    Good post, Explained all CMYK and RGB difference.
    Really like it

    Reply February 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm
  2. mcspunk

    I always do my work in RGB mode but when I want to make a CMYK version I just copy my artwork>create new file in CYMK>then paste it there, Is this a valid option?

    Reply February 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm
    • thedmr

      I also have the same workflow and I’m also wondering is this a valid/professional solution?

      Reply March 2, 2012 at 4:42 am
    • RachelLynn

      That’s fine as long as you don’t have to worry about separations. IE black on all 4 plates and hitting registration. It’s much easier to convert to RGB than to CMYK.

      Reply September 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm
  3. Jurgen

    Hi Peter, nice article. I think it gives people without knowledge from Colormodes a great introduction. The fact that RGB color are back ligthen and CMYK aren’t is many times confusing for new comers and ends many times with unhappy clients which get printer results they don’t like. If we take a look under the hood its even not finished here! The fact that a CMYK color can look totally different on coated or uncoated paper is also many times a pitfal new designer fall into. On the other side CMYK offers also some great advantage such as spot Colors which makes it possible to print for example with metallic colors. Looking forward to your next article, mate

    Reply February 21, 2012 at 11:20 pm
    • Peter Vukovic

      Hi Jurgen, thanks for mentioning all that – this article is really just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to CMYK and its specific possibilities. You are definitely the expert in that area, so I would recommend everybody to read your articles in addition to this one.

      Reply February 27, 2012 at 4:16 pm
  4. morgu3

    That “View > Proof colors” in Photoshop just saved my life, thank you!

    Reply February 22, 2012 at 12:59 am
    • Allison Stuart

      That’s great! Cheers :)

      Reply February 22, 2012 at 9:33 am
  5. Bane86

    Great post, very helpful, because I’m new in this “business” and on 99designs. Thanks so much! But, can you, please, make a post (or someone of more experienced designers can explain to me) about one thing that keeps bothering me constantly: I see a lot of designers submitting thier designs for logo contests with some colors and shades that can’t (or I think so) be created with CMYK color palette. Especially shades of green. In the CMYK palette there is no that very bright shades of green (which can make logo look so great)! There is only darker shades of green (with them my ideas cannot look as I’ve imagined them in the start how they should look like). :-(
    I find those shades that I need in the RGB palette, but they can’t be used for logo designs (especially for print), right??? I’m using CorelDraw X5.
    What should I do? Please help! Thanks so much to anyone who can make this clear to me!
    Greetings from Serbia!

    Reply February 22, 2012 at 4:21 am
    • Peter Vukovic

      Hi Bane,

      your assumptions are correct – bright green RGB colors CANNOT be used successfully in CMYK printing, otherwise you will get a result quite similar to the “Bad Idea” example above.

      Always make sure you’re working with CMYK color pallete, and feel free to warn other designers next time you see this problem.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply February 22, 2012 at 9:33 am
  6. LeMArchant


    Reply February 22, 2012 at 12:22 pm
  7. Joekirei

    Very Nice Information, Thanks a lot Peter ;)


    Reply February 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm
  8. Bane86

    Thanks for your answer, Peter.
    Of course it helps, and you have confirmed my suspicions. I just wonder if any of designers had problems with their clients, because there was tens and tens of winning designs that I saw at large number of designers in their “winning designs” profile page. Maybe there is some solution for that bright colors of green, that I don’t know. I’ve heard about using some of the PANTONE palettes (in CorelDRAW) with those “problematic” colors, that can stay the same after printing. And combining regular CDR CMYK colors with some PANTONE palettes could solve problem for graphics that is meant for printing too.
    Would be nice if someone who knows the “solution” could share with us… Cheers!

    Reply February 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm
  9. slavic


    Reply February 23, 2012 at 2:43 am
  10. suryarey

    the problem that we can’t convert PNG files to CMYK

    Reply February 23, 2012 at 3:51 am
  11. abdul wahid khan

    Very Nice Information, Thanks a lot ABDUL WAHID KHAN

    Reply February 23, 2012 at 5:13 am
  12. Carl

    The graphic and text in the article is incorrect. The “K” in CMYK is not derived from the “K” in Black.

    Reply February 23, 2012 at 6:25 am
    • Allison Stuart

      Hi Carl! Yes, you are correct… the “K” stands for Key (Black). I believe Peter was trying to represent it so the viewers could remember that the colors are in fact Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and BlacK. I changed it in the text so that it’s more clear. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. Cheers!

      Reply February 23, 2012 at 9:34 am
      • Carl

        No worries, sorry to be so pedantic :) It’s definitely how I first learned it too. I just find the real reason so much more interesting! (Like why leading is called leading, etc)

        Reply February 23, 2012 at 10:03 am
        • Jurgen

          I think Peter just want to make it more easier for the readers. Also the reason why its not B for Black is to
          avoid any confusion with Blue like rgB ;)

          Reply February 24, 2012 at 2:30 am
    • Peter Vukovic

      Thanks Carl, you are absolutely right, I just didn’t want to introduce the “key” concept in this article :) But I see now that things should be called properly regardless of my intention, so thanks for the comment!

      Reply February 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm
  13. Aleksandar

    I have a problem, my designs look darker when I post them on contest on 99, so I am interested can you show us, or link it, full color settings steps. I just want that my designs look same when i post them on contest and in my screen.

    Reply February 23, 2012 at 9:10 am
  14. Damiano Sanna

    very useful, thanks

    Reply February 23, 2012 at 1:34 pm
  15. Christine

    Great Article…understand now why my prints came out the way they did for my t-shirt design..thanks

    Reply February 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm
  16. adhim

    that all my problem, thank you for the article

    Reply February 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm
  17. Vesna

    This is really useful. I’m so glad I found this site. ^^

    Reply February 24, 2012 at 12:59 am
  18. Ancel Litto

    great article.but I have a question which is the value in cmyk that can be used to print the blackest black. I have heard that the default black in illustrator is not the blackest black that can be got.

    Reply February 24, 2012 at 7:35 am
  19. dhuhArt

    Thanks… :)

    Reply February 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm
  20. Mijan

    It’s really nice article..

    Reply February 26, 2012 at 12:21 am
  21. eyeris02

    can you please answer the question of mspunk. i’m new at designing and i’m thinking of the same workflow. Thanks!

    Reply March 2, 2012 at 6:06 pm
    • Michelle E

      I have worked in print for a while and I do recommend that if your design or artwork is for print that you always work in CMYK. One reason, as stated in the article above, is that when converting from RGB to CMYK you will get a difference in the colour output. RGB colours have a nice bright, electric look and once converted to CMYK that colour will dull. When I email clients a proof of their artwork I often tell them that the colour they see onscreen will not be the same when the artwork prints. It is a good idea to set up your layout for the medium in which it is intended whether it be print or web. I do suggest working always in CMYK for print because sometimes a client may have a logo with a very specific CMYK colour breakdown. If you work in RGB you will not be able to match that breakdown particularly when you convert from RGB to CMYK. Beesides, working in RGB and then pasting the artwork into a CMYK document is only giving you more work to do. Why not cut a step of the process and simply start in CMYK?

      Reply March 4, 2012 at 8:46 am
  22. danny

    :D its nice.. plain and simple.

    Reply March 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm
  23. deram

    I had a headache attack, because of think of it before (when to start working with RGB or CMYK?) :L
    After reading your article and the response from readers, I’m straight .. Sleeping Beauty, so peaceful. :D Hopefully my reaction is not excessive (Hhh..) but at least you will also laugh with it :D, it’s healthy by the way. Thank you for sharing, and very helpful. Will wait for your next article.


    Reply March 6, 2012 at 8:51 am
  24. mrg

    the thing is the client always want design in web & print both ! and they always like light colors

    solution —> tell to client about darker output & try to change color to make more similarity ;)

    Reply March 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm
  25. armynanta

    I am a beginner in graphic design, when I designed in Corel Draw not so bright colors but when I made the png why the color becomes light and does not match the color while still in corel draw

    GBU thanks

    Reply March 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm
  26. Alexander von Ness

    Dear all,
    I would also like to say a word concerning this everlasting discussion about RGB and CMYK.
    I’m a new member of the 99design community, so I would like to contribute to the knowledge of the whole community with the experience I gained.
    While reading these comments I recalled 1995 and my first “serious” graphic prepress for color printing. I still remember my disappointment while seeing first printings coming out of the machine. The sky on the flyer was purple instead blue. The brown trees were dark grey…
    Long story short, I believe everyone here knows that we differentiate vector and raster graphics. The vector graphics are pretty easy to explain.
    As Peter said, all of you working in Corel have to publish the document to PDF and there choose the option Prepress. I would like to add something to Peter’s statement. Another important fact is that you have to click “Always overprint black” at the color option.
    Why is this “Always overprint black” that important? If you have a photograph that has a black text written over it, and you don’t click this option “Always overprint black”, the photograph will be printed with white fillings on the place where the text should be, so the text will literary have to be inserted into this white gaps. This isn’t such a problem if you are printing on a 4-color machine, but if you aren’t working on such a machine (although this is no guarantee for success), while printing the text can be shifted and you don’t have a 100 % guarantee that it will match the gaps. The printers often go crazy because of it… (in my beginnings I often drove some printers crazy with it). The point is, while printing the paper sops water and ink. On the places without color, a very thin layer of water is being inflicted, because of what the paper stretches. That is the reason why the white gaps can’t be rightfully filled with the fourth, black color because of which unwanted white outlines around the letters incur. That can sometimes look really awful.
    There is another thing I would like to point out (this is completely individual i.e. my practical experience being the head of prepress in a printing house over 15 years).
    Particularly, a color photograph could in theory be printed in three colors C.M.Y., however given that we can’t get the color of black from mixing those three, but a dark grey, we are filling this color “gap” by adding black, which is the reason black is called K, as in KEY in the CMYK mode.
    When the photograph is being printed it should look realistic without the black, but the black is good for sharpening and enchasing the dark surfaces. That is why I have a little trick (as I already said, this is my personal experience). In theory, every color C.M.Y.K. has the value of 100 (this number is not the percentage, but value). Since I like my photographs to be a little bit emphasized and “live” I suggest you click in Photoshop Edit, Color Settings and then Working Spaces in the menu. Choose the option CMYK and select Custom CMYK from the panel. In the Separation Options decrease the option Black Ink Limits from 100 to 50, and increase the Total Ink Limit to 350…
    You will reduce the rate between black and other colors by this, so the C.M.Y. will “overtake” one part of black and make the picture more “open”, what isn’t the case when there is too much black.
    And at the end, to all beginners who want to practice graphic design and prepress more seriously, I would recommend to initiate with the “Color atlas” which is a great example and manual how the CMYK colors function in practice, i.e. in printing.
    Thank you for your patience while reading this. If you have any technical questions concerning prepress, feel free to ask me and I will gladly answer your questions.
    I’m sorry for my English, that isn’t too great, but I hope you got my message…
    Alexander von Ness

    Reply March 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm
    • Bane86

      Hi Alexander,
      thanks for your helpful explanation! You mentioned “Color Atlas”. Is that a book? And if it is, do you know the name of the author?

      Reply March 13, 2012 at 7:50 am
      • Alexander von Ness

        Pozdrav Bane…
        Evo vidjeh tvoj prijašnji post pa da ti odgovorim na našem jeziku… Atlas boja u principu nema autora… To nije nekakva knjiga nego jednostavno rečeno, naštampane stranice sa svim mogućim kombinacijama CMYK boja. Tako kada ti treba određena boja, pronađeš je na svojoj stranici u Atlasu i njene vrijednosti ukucaš u Photoshop, Corel, Illustrator… Što se tiče Corela, nevjerojatno je koliko on “laže boje”. Kod nas je to svojevremeno izdao “Studio Žiljak” iz Zagreba, također ja koristim jedan stari od “Gorenjski tisk” iz Ljubljane. Inače, ako si stvarno zainteresiran svrati do neke tiskare pa tamo malo pogledaj o čemu se radi(to bi trebala imati svaka ozbiljna tiskara). I još da ti napomenem da je to dosta skupa kjnižica, cca. 200-300 eura. (Kad sam bio u Milanu u Italiji na sajmu grafike, vidio sam Atlas boja od 1000 Eura!)

        Pozdrav iz Rijeke…

        Reply March 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm
        • Bane86

          Ooooo, kakva slučajnost! Nema ništa bez nas iz bivse Juge,a? :-) Hvala puno na objašnjenju, cenim to! Ja sam relativno nov na 99designs, tek sam 6 meseci prisutan. Dosta sam naučio za ovo vreme, imao do sad 8 finala od 50tak učešća. Tri puta baš bio blizu da pobedim, ali me i dalje muči problem koji sam predstavio u svoja dva komentara na ovaj tekst, ali na žalost nisam dobio odgovor koji mi je potreban. Ti, kao čovek sa prilično iskustva, možda mi možes dati potrebne odgovore. Oba moja komentara, a ujedno i pitanja, napisao sam 22.02. tako da nećeš imati problem da ih pronađeš. Bio bih ti neverovatno zahvalan ako mi odgonetneš kako ti silni dizajneri pobediše sa tim nijansama boja o kojima pričam, odnosno da li postoji neka posebna paleta koju mogu koristiti u Korelu (uz CMYK) kako bih dobio nijanse koje sam pomenuo? Inače radim u Korelu, ali sam počeo učiti Ilustrator pre par dana jer vidim da ima neverovatno vise mogućnosti nego Korel. Ipak, verovatno je i u njemu problem sa tim bojama isti. Jednostavno, kako postići npr. tu zelenu o kojoj sam pisao gore u oba programa kada se radi nesto sto treba ići u štampu???
          Unapred hvala i pozdrav za tebe iz Valjeva.

          Reply March 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm
    • Brian

      Thank for a helpful page. I was having a problem of emailing a coreldraw file for printing. It was pixeling and quality deduction.the file was jpeg.

      Reply March 3, 2013 at 2:14 am
  27. sajid

    can i use photoshop for logo because someone told me that you have make vector logo file which is used only photoshop but i can make much more better logo in photoshop because there are lots of tools there could you please help me about that,

    Reply March 16, 2012 at 8:34 am
  28. akhilesh

    Hi i am new to designing please anyone recomend me best software i should use to create exellent logos

    Reply March 29, 2012 at 9:19 am
    • Allison Stuart

      Hi akhilesh,

      A really good program for logos is Adobe Illustrator: You should check it out!


      Reply March 29, 2012 at 9:24 am
  29. akhilesh

    Thnx allison for reff.

    Reply March 31, 2012 at 3:13 am
  30. yahyanyes

    each file when printed digitally rgb why the results are far from a computer screen

    Reply April 13, 2012 at 7:54 am
  31. bell2288

    I think about colors which used in the logo designers. For example That a leader in the contest “OpenRisk”. He obtained five stars. Color blu is’t CMYK mode. So it is possible?

    Reply April 14, 2012 at 2:13 am
  32. yogesh

    Lot of info.

    Thank You Peter Vukovic.

    Reply April 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm
  33. Ashish

    Thanks a lot for this article. Really helpful.

    Reply April 29, 2012 at 12:21 am
  34. Sathay

    Really a very Good post, Explained all CMYK and RGB difference.
    Really like it very much

    Reply June 1, 2012 at 10:53 am
  35. Denise

    Very thorough explanation on which options to use when. Appreciate the advice on which file formats to deliver as well. Well written article. Thank you.

    Reply June 11, 2012 at 11:10 pm
  36. khan

    My name is khann from afghanistan,,,,,,,i am working for a printing press in kabul…if u guys have any problems in corel or any other programs then u can ask easily okey,,,,yours well wisher khann.

    Reply June 18, 2012 at 10:05 pm
  37. Roshan Perera

    Dear Khan
    Why When we use digital photcopy print with Corelx5 black images in DOT & White Images as nearly 5% dot before i used X4 there are no matter Pls send me a answer
    Roshan Perera

    Reply July 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm
  38. KHOKON

    Nice Post. I love it

    Reply July 13, 2012 at 11:38 am
  39. Zajko

    Nice post. Explains the difference between RGB and CMYK.
    I have one question: Most of the contest holders want their logos to be used on web and print that means we need to use RGB and CMYK, i saw some people posting examples in RGB collors, so what happens if they win and contest holder can’t use that color on print? Does logo need’s to be 100% same for print and web?
    I hope someone can answer me or give some link where this question is explained.


    Reply August 3, 2012 at 5:19 am


    Reply August 8, 2012 at 1:54 am
    • DeckerKikinda

      Hi, check if your monitor calibration is set right, maybe that is the problem.

      Reply January 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm
  41. Cecilia

    best article I have found thus far for someone new to graphic design who needs it broken down into its simplest form!

    Reply September 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm
  42. claudia

    Thank you for explanations.
    I work as the production coordinator between designers and printers. I wonder how I can check if the PDF file is saved/ created in CMYK or RGB?

    Reply September 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm
  43. Joni

    I’m having some issues with converting my RGB designs to CMYK. When I convert them while exporting my design in jpg, it changes the colors completely. I have Corel Draw X3, WinPC Sign Pro and I just got Adobe Illustrator CS4. I’ve just started to add print to my business and I have previously only worked with cutting graphics in vector. Not sure what I am doing wrong. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply September 22, 2012 at 11:33 pm
  44. Richard Pierce

    When you drop a photo into a Word document, either RGB or CMYK, what happens to it? Does it still retain its RGB or CMYK modes or does it do something else? I’ve read that Word does not recognize CMYK.

    Reply October 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm
    • Allison Stuart

      You are correct, Word does not support CMYK color modes. So if you’d like to print a CMYK image, you’ll need to use the correct programs. I’m not exactly sure what the color mode images convert to, however you should be able to insert a JPEG into Word with no problem.

      Reply October 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm
  45. Laura

    Great stuff from EVERYBODY! I use Quark and have for years but hate how cumbersome it is. I can’t afford the Adobe package. So I wonder if anyone has any thoughts about Pages from iWork (Apple)? Everything looks great on screen, but I’ve heard conflicting comments about the exported PDF file not working well with professional printers. Thank you all!

    Reply October 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm
  46. shine jack


    How to make desing in cmyk format in coreldraw 12 version…?

    Reply October 28, 2012 at 8:09 am
  47. Christine York

    I work in CMYK all the time but when getting hand drawn pictures from people the black turns to cmyk and I only want it to be 100% black to sep out. Need help

    Reply October 30, 2012 at 8:43 am
  48. Christine York

    Been working in newspaper for 30 plus years, cmyk is all we use. My question in photoshop is how to highlight all the black and make true black to sep out on handdrawn illustrations. I usually pour 100% black in channel but that is pain. Need a shortcut. Someone explained it so fast my notes must be wrong because we can’t make it work.

    Reply October 30, 2012 at 8:54 am
  49. Clare

    This such really helpful info and much appreciated as I am so so green at this & starting decoding and I am hoping to change an Ad I am doing from 72 RGB for a magazine – they are calling for it in CMYK Pages programme for Mac working on a macbook) into a CMYK 300dpi any help with how to set that in place for the Ad design or should I just give up and get photoshop,

    Reply November 10, 2012 at 3:47 am
  50. Sanford

    Thank you very much for the nice post.

    Reply November 17, 2012 at 1:45 am
  51. Arun

    How we can Know a pdf is RGB or in CYMK color mode. Also how we can know the resolution ie DPI.

    Reply November 21, 2012 at 3:18 am
  52. Pathum

    Hi, i got a problem. when we design a logo which color format should we use? especially logo is intended for both print and web media.

    Reply November 25, 2012 at 6:45 am
    • Kevin

      Hi Pathom. I’m not a very experience Graphic Designer but when you’re creating a logo, it’s not a good idea to create it by using Photoshop. As the name suggests, photoshop is used mainly for editing images/photos. Use Adobe illustrator instead (or any other similar software). Because it’s vector based, the color is very safe there for both RGB and CMYK, it’s highly editable, and the size of the logo can be enlarged or reduced as much as you want without having to lose its quality

      Reply January 14, 2013 at 12:15 am
    • Kevin

      Hi Pathum, i didn’t know if my last reply reached you or not so it’s safer to write it again. I’m not a very experienced designer but if you’re creating a logo, it’s so much preferable to use Adobe illustrator (or any other vector based software), cause as the name suggests, photoshop is mainly used for editing images/photos, it can do other stuff too but not an expert. But for illustrator, since it’s vector based, the color is very safe for both RGB and CMYK, it’s highly editable, and the logo size can be reduced or enlarged as much as you want without having to lose the quality

      Reply January 14, 2013 at 12:24 am
  53. Deepak

    Hi PATHOM, use CMYK. This article also suggests that, if there is even a slightest chance of print, than you should use CMYK Mode.during design, why not first save the document before applying any color. Then copy it, open it, fill with CMYK save it and than again do it with RGB ? Is it possible. I am not sure. I am new here. I will check and tell you letter,if possible.

    Reply November 29, 2012 at 6:14 am
    • Pathum

      thanks for your reply.

      Reply November 29, 2012 at 11:39 am
  54. Kelly

    Can you help explain why when I print the same logo from different files (JPEG and EPS) the colors are different? The logo was designed in Adobe InDesign with the document setup of print but the color used was RGB; and then the file was exported in EPS and JPEG.

    Reply December 11, 2012 at 9:03 am
    • Allison Stuart

      Hi Kelly! Since you are trying to print the logo, you should change the color mode from RGB (which is mainly used on the web) to CMYK (which is used for print). It’s possible when you are exporting it as a JPEG, it’s converting it to RGB. Please let me know if that does not help. Cheers!

      Reply December 11, 2012 at 9:44 am
  55. Ashley

    Is there a default color space that a document is converted to when I export something to a PDF? I was previously told that PDF’s are inherently defaulted to CMYK because the program assumes that the document is prepared for print. Thanks for your help!

    Reply December 20, 2012 at 9:52 am
  56. Bradley Wilson

    DPI and PPI are not the same. DPI — dots per inch — refers to the resolution of printer output, including the resolution of negatives or plates from an imagesetter. When you go to buy a printer, DPI is one of the factors you should consider as well as paper size, PPM (pages per minute), etc. It’s a measure of output. PPI — pixels per inch — refers to the resolution of a digital image, a pixel (or PI(X)cture ELement). It’s a measure of input.

    Reply January 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm
  57. veena

    Hi am a graphic designer i want to know while we designing a leaflet which color mode has to be use ,background am designing in photoshop and text editing in illustrator so please advice me in both which color mode i need to select

    Reply January 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm
  58. Zahid

    Hi, I am new in 99design. This article is very helpful for me. But when a design is use both for web and print, which format i will submit my design?

    Reply January 21, 2013 at 3:01 am
  59. Piya

    Sometimes good english confuses me. All I want to ask is If I want my design to get printed then in what format should I creat my file. CMYK or RGB. Because when I create my file in CMYK, all colors look dull. SO, after printing, will that image look like RGB image or it will still look dull as it had looked on screen? And is it possible to create image in RGB and then convert it in CMYK to get it printed? I can’t use CMYK because of dull colors. sorry but my knowledge is poor on this. Revert back plz

    Reply January 24, 2013 at 5:25 am
  60. habibdk

    thanks for ur guide.

    Reply January 24, 2013 at 8:10 am
  61. AvramB

    Everyone asks, what we can do when design holder want both (web usable logo and printing usable logo).
    My suggest is : make your logo in CMYK .
    You can export CMYK in RGB and present to customer
    original work online (on screen)and – what customer see that customer get. If you work in RGB you can present fresh color logo online but it’s unusable for printing. RGB CAN NOT TURN IN CMYK WITHOUT OF COLOR DISMISS …ITS BAD DONT DO THAT!

    Reply February 3, 2013 at 2:31 pm
  62. DiamondDean

    Exactly what I was looking for! And yes, I do have a question: For high quality signs, business cards, brochures, etc. Is there a preferred setting in photoshop after “Color Mode – CMYK” is selected? Choices are: 8 bit or 16 bit. Preference? Doesn’t matter? Never use one versus the other?

    Thnaks for taking the time to post the article.

    Reply February 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm
    • DiamondDean

      Allison? Anyone? Re: 8 bit or 16 bit?…

      Reply February 27, 2013 at 11:03 am
      • Allison Stuart

        Hi DiamondDean. I’ve talked to our printing expert and he said that you should only need 8 bit — 16 bit is for more high-end photography. Taking a file from 8 bit to 16 bit will increase the file size, and there really isn’t a reason to waste the space. If you want to read more about 8 bit vs. 16 bit, then I’d suggest Googling it. Here is an answer I found on the subject:

        “Should CMYK be 8-Bit, 16-Bit or 32-Bit Depth?
        You can work in 16-Bit RGB, but since CMYK is the last step before sending the image to a printing press, it may as well be 8-Bit. Banding will need to be addressed then.”

        Let us know what you find. :)

        Reply February 27, 2013 at 11:40 am
  63. Vivian Hall

    Can RGB be converted into CMYK? I want to do an eBook so I only need RGB but if a publisher wants to print the eBook later in hardback, can the RGB files be converted into CMYK for print purposes?

    Reply February 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm
  64. Kaelea Ann

    so i did a repeat pattern in photoshop.
    the design elements are in layers and the background color is in its own layer.
    when i go to fill the pattern in a new file the back ground color dulls even though all the RGB levels are exactly the same. is this because of the printing process mentioned above?

    i just need my artwork to remain in its original color state.

    thanks so much!

    Reply February 22, 2013 at 1:16 pm
    • Allison Stuart

      Hi Kaelea! If you are not touching the background layer at all, I’m not sure why it would be dulling. You can try to set the color you want for the background layer by right clicking on the layer, going to Blending Options > Color Overlay, and adjusting the color you’d like there. Let me know if I’ve missed something. Thanks!

      Reply February 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm
  65. patrick

    i really am glad i can find useful information this fast online these days….now im finding it hard obtaining colors til and rust copper effect on corel draw,my client wants exactly those colors but i dont know the color combination on corel draw 14 :(

    Reply February 27, 2013 at 6:12 am
  66. Antonio

    Thanks! What I didn’t understand is if I am designing logo for the web and to be printed on business card should i create the logo in RGB and then convert it to CMYK or should I do the opposite? Is there any ‘loss of quality’ after converting the images RGB/CMYK and CMYK/RGB?

    Reply March 9, 2013 at 2:16 am
  67. Willy

    Hello, good post, but now I have a question, I have a phot in format jpg, and I need to send to one journal that send me this specification: Colour photos or drawings (CMYK)// Filetype .tif// File format cmyk// Resolution 300 dots-per-inch// Min width: 16.8 cm; Now I have corel draw but how I now if i´m doing well when i use new and ask me about the width?? and how to paste photo, with import?? Sory i´m new in this theme. Thank you for helpme.

    Reply March 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm
  68. omar

    I Use Photoshop CS 5 Portable and When I Work Design Print I Make Mode CMYK Then The Color No Apply EX : Red No Red and Blue No Blue all Color Different RGB How
    Fix This Problem In Windows 7 (64 Bit)

    Reply March 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm
  69. X-Version

    I like RGB, With RGB, gradient being perfect.
    JPEG, I save in RGB, for a transform to CMYK, I do it in photoshop, Adjust Brightness, Contrast, color balance, saturation. So that resembles the RGB color

    Reply March 20, 2013 at 10:44 am
  70. Cheryl

    Hi there!

    I have a question revolving around this topic.
    I ran into a print colour issue today when I went to pick up a mug I had printed. The colour didn’t turn out how it looked on screen.
    I created the image in illustrator in CMYK mode and then saved the file as a jpeg/RGB for the purpose of printing this image onto a mug. The faint sand/shell colour came out on the mug as a buttery custard colour.
    How would I set up the CMYK illustrator colour to come out the way it looks on screen once printed from the RGB Jpeg file?
    Your expert advise would be much appreciated, Thanks!

    Reply March 26, 2013 at 8:46 pm
    • Allison Stuart

      Hi Cheryl! I’ve asked our Community Blogger (and designer) Peter for an answer and here is what he said:

      “Mug printing relies on sublimation printing technology, which essentially involves ‘baking’ the color onto the mug. Many things can go slightly wrong here, especially with warm color tones such as the one you are describing.

      To make sure everything is good at your end, print your CMYK artwork on a quality digital laser printer and see if you’re generally happy with the color. If yes, then the problem is likely in the mug printing shop — ask them for advice, or give them the laser printout as a reference so they can fix the color themselves.

      Here are some useful articles I found on this particular subject:

      Color issues when printing submlimation mugs

      Sublimation color management

      Reply April 4, 2013 at 9:46 am
  71. William

    Hi everyone,

    I found 99 Designs while looking for a solution to a problem I have.

    I’m doing a high-end photo archiving job where the end results will be printed. They need to be printed at 800 or 1200 DPI, no exceptions.

    The files are being saved as 16 bit, CMYK .tiff files. From there, the photos are being moved into an 8.5″ by 11″ template for printing and then saved as .PDF files at 1200 DPI.

    Obviously, the files are huge. When moving them to a flash drive, it took an unusually long amount of time to transfer them. The files were taken to three different printers and had “corrupted” or “could not be opened” errors.

    Initially, I thought this may have something to do with creating the files on a pre-Intel Mac G5. But other sources claim this really shouldn’t be an issue.

    Any ideas or suggestions on what can be done? Are the files being saved incorrectly?

    Any help is much appreciated! Thank you!

    Reply April 24, 2013 at 5:57 am
    • Allison Stuart

      Hi William,

      It’s really hard to say exactly why your files are reading as “corrupt”. However, I talked to our Printing Expert and he stated that if you’re using a flash drive, it’s possible the drive doesn’t have the capacity to transfer the file, and is therefore corrupting it in the process. Try either Zipping the files, transfering it to a disk, or anything with a bigger storage space. Hope that helps!

      Reply April 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm
      • William

        Hi Allison,

        Thanks for your reply.

        It is difficult to say why it’s happening.

        One test I tried using the older Mac (which the files were made on) was to open them in Adobe Reader. I got the same file corruption error. However, they opened fine in Photoshop.

        Reply April 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm
  72. Tara


    Great post! Thank you very much! It basically explains everything I have been wondering about..

    However, I have a problem, I am working on my architectural portfolio, which is going to be sent digitally as well as printed.. So which setting should I start with to get the highest quality (digitally or printed) and if i started with an RGB mode for example, can i convert it to CYMK mode easilt without losing quality?

    Reply April 30, 2013 at 2:46 am
    • Allison Stuart

      Hi Tara! Great question. Most designers suggest starting in CMYK mode when designing for both print and web. Programs like Photoshop make converting from CMYK to RGB pretty easy, although you may need to make a few color tweaks once you’ve converted. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Reply April 30, 2013 at 2:53 pm
  73. Steevy

    I am a gfx designer 4rom Nigeria and have been designing 4 just 8 months now. I wanna know if d conclusion is dat. Q1: we should start designing from d scratch in CMYK with both corel and ps if for print? Q2: are there ways of getting more colors in CMYk cos we all know dat CMYK has limited colors compared to RGB? Q3: How can i make d image a lil bit brighter afta working in CMYk with both corel and photoshop?

    Reply July 15, 2013 at 12:59 am
  74. Mia

    Dear Peter Vukovic, I work at a print shop and this article was explained very well in a way that my clients and graphic designers can understand and in effect adjust their files accordingly however how would you explain CMYK to Pantone Colors in a simple manner? (of course I could explain it to my clients but I cant explain it to all of those whom I don’t know and don’t come in to our shop (the rest of the world aka w.w.w.) Thank You! Mia

    Reply April 17, 2014 at 8:44 am
  75. RHR

    After reading the tutorial I’m little bit confused. If I’m create my logo with RGB mode then how can I convert it to CMYK for printing without any color degradation? I’m eagerly waiting for the reply…

    Reply June 18, 2014 at 11:58 am
  76. Rebekah

    Thanks for the helpful article! Let me ask you this. I’m designing a logo for print and screen, and I’m new to Adobe Illustrator. My workflow was to create the logo in AI in CMYK, and then export to PNG at 72ppi. Is there any reason to first convert the AI file to RGB before exporting to PNG? Thanks!

    Reply July 15, 2014 at 7:13 am
  77. Cory Hanes

    This post was so helpful! I sometimes have a hard time explaining CMYK vs. RGB to my people I design for and this really breaks it down and explains it perfectly!

    Reply July 18, 2014 at 6:33 pm

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