Converting RGB to CMYK in Illustrator

I often find the need to convert RGB files to CMYK (and visa versa) in Adobe Illustrator. The trouble is I always forget how to do it! Therefore I've drawn up a simple 3 step process to help.

  • RGB and CMYK aren't the same
    RGB and CMYK aren't the same

Being a web designer I live in the world of RGB and the thought of CMYK and the finality of print scares me (a lot!). However, I regularly need to convert a logo to CMYK in Adobe Illustrator from a graphic that is in RGB colour mode. To do this in Illustrator you simply do the following:

  • Go to File » Document Color Mode and check CMYK

Yeh I know it's simple but being a AI newbee, I have spent ages searching for a solution before remembering. This process also works in reverse (CMYK to RGB):

  1. Go to File » Document Color Mode and check RGB.
  2. Select everything in your document and go Filter » Color » Convert to RGB.

A good way to check what colours are being used in your document is to:

  1. Open up the colour pallette.
  2. Bring up the menu by clicking the little arrow in the top right hand corner and select "Small List View". This brings up (suprise suprise) a list view of all colours with a little symbol representing the colour mode type (ie: RGB, CMYK...etc).
  3. Now click on an element in your document and the list will jump to the colour being used. You can then determine whether it's CMYK or RGB...etc

Hope this helps

Deep Blue Sky
Bath's local experts for web design

27 Comments on this post

  1. said “Remind me” years ago
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    Thanks, it is really helpful. I'm a GD, I really forgot got such function for converting into CMYK/RGB colors because I only using that converter you mentioned to convert the CMYK/RGB color into gray. Haha.. now then remind me, thanks again



  2. Jack said “Thankyou!!!!!” years ago
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    I was about to spend the next hour individually clicking complex rgb vector art and changing it to cmyk in the colour field. I knew their had to be a simple way - thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Megan said “Simply Put” years ago
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    Thanks! I am so accustomed to using Photoshop to switch RGB to CMYK, that I forgot how to do it in Illustrator, and I recently got an .eps files that came to me in RGB mode. This helped immensely!

  4. Jody said “Thanks for the help!” years ago
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    That was very helpful! Thanks for the post.

  5. Alberto said “Thanks!!!” years ago
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    Thanks a lot, veeeeery veeryy useful!!

  6. Rachel said “New CS5” years ago
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    In the new CS5, there is no Filter >> etc... I believe you want to go to Edit >> Edit Colors >> Convert to... (RGB/CMYK)

    Thanks for your post!

  7. Fate said “Bad Idea” years ago
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    Simply converting from RGB to CMYK will often result in colors that are above 300% ink density, almost always with dark colors. Whether it's by changing the document color mode or changing the swatch color breakdown. You'll end up with some messed up colors.

    For example, try converting the document color mode from RGB to CMYK. Look at your swatches in the small list view as suggested above and click on the swatch to see the breakdown. Note the breakdown. Now go from CMYK back to RGB. Notice how your colors changed? They won't revert back to the correct RGB breakdown, some may be close but a lot are going to be way off. Sadly, I don't have the solution for this. In looking for the solution I stumbled on this page and figured I might want to give a heads up to anyone who relies on this method.

    The process "works" but doesn't maintain the integrity of your color.

  8. Line said “Thank you” years ago
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    Hey thanks for this post - I was stuck! I use Illustrator wery little, and was unsure if my search for "change from rgb to cmyk in illustrator" would give any easy answers - and it did. You saved me for a long night.

  9. kirk said “I not clear that this tip works as you expect” years ago
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    Switching the Document Color Mode in the under the File menu has no effect on the settings of the individual swatches in you mention. Switch the document color mode to cmyk and then go to an rgb swatch in your color palette, double-click on the swatch to bring up the swatch options. Here you can select this specific color's mode too but you have the option to change the Color Type from Spot to Process.

    After just changing the Document Color Mode to CMYK, the options on individual RGB swatches used in the graphic are still set as Spot colors which suggests that they will not be separated onto the four color printing plates for CMYK printing, unless you set them to Process.

  10. kirk said “Correction to this post” years ago
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    If you are using CS3 you convert all colors to CMYK by changing the document color mode under the File menu as this post describes, but you must additionally select all the objects and layers you want to convert, select Edit Color under the Edit Menu and select convert to CMYK.

  11. David said “@Fate” years ago
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    @Fate Thanks for your comments. Is there any chance you could post a better solution. I'm not a print designer and so I'd hate to be misleading people.

    Thanks in advance.

  12. KINYA said “THANK YOU :-)” years ago
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  13. Dhruv said “Very Useful” years ago
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    Thanks You :)

  14. Jeff said “better solution for RGB to CMYK conversion” years ago
    Gravatar for Jeff no more messy conversions. It does require that you have indesign though.

  15. rafael said “rafael” years ago
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    hi, thanks , but about the

    Filter » Color » Convert to RGB

    I cant find it in illustrator or in PS photoshop filter gallery ^^,

    I am actually making a sort of logo illustration for a client and I am not sure to make it in cmyk, but he said he is just gonna use it in his web header, but I think ahead, cause maybe he might decide to use it in print, and I dont want to have problems with the color modes and stuff.

    can I make the logo in cmyk and publish it as a png or jpeg without any color change?if so how can I make it please ?^^

  16. shea said “RGB to CYMK and back again” years ago
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    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I'm a fellow newbie, too, and your little tip just saved me! :)

  17. Mag said “Its the little things” years ago
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    Thanks so much i have been trying to do it alone but this really reduced time wasting :)! Cheers from Me!

  18. Barbara said “cmyk to rgb” years ago
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    Thank you xx

  19. Zayneb said “I now like illustrator a little more” years ago
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    Thanks for the tip, so useful. Saved me precious time.

  20. PRATIK said “RGB TO CMYK” years ago
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    Great Sir Thank you its very help full to me

  21. artist said “kathir” years ago
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  22. Robert said “converting colors” years ago
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    Great post, man... you're helping even the aftereffectsmaniacs in brazil, heheheh!!

  23. leorikz said “thx” years ago
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    very usefull

  24. cheryl said “printing in rgb fail” years ago
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    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!

  25. Vince said “Fate is correct” years ago
    Gravatar for Vince

    There is no reliable automation for converting RGB to CMYK, as many RGB colors simply don't exist in the CMYK world.

    In the ideal world, presuming that you need color, you want to anchor your design's colors in a restrictive print-standard color system like Pantone or whatever, as these 'restrictive' systems color values are easily 'upsampled' into the broader CMYK and RGB color spaces.

    What has me searching today is...

    If I open or paste Pantone 369C into a Photoshop RGB file I get #6eb43f.

    If I color pick the Pantone in the CMYK AI file I get #6cb33f.

    These visual difference between these values is virtually nothing, probably beyond the capability of human perception, but which is correct?

    I'm going to go with the color identified in Illustrator. Not because I know it to be academically correct, its just my best guess.

  26. Keti said “Convert vector artwork from RGB to CMYC in Ai” years ago
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    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!for ''Go to File » Document Color Mode and check CMYK''Love U!

  27. lolaso said “gracias” last year
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    I don't use AI as often and this saved me tons of time and my ass.

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