As a graphic designer for several small magazines, I receive a lot of work from other designers, and it is always surprising to me to find that these designers don't realize what mode their images should be.

When images are downloaded from Dreamstime, they are in RGB mode - meaning red, green, blue. This is great for the web. And it allows for smaller file sizes which is great for download times.

But when designing for a printed publication, images HAVE to be set to CMYK - cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. These are the actual ink colors used on a 4 color press. Applications now will automatically convert images from RGB to CMYK when writing the press-ready files, but the problem is this:

Images that are very bright and vibrant while in RGB can often turn dull or even dark when converted to CMYK.

The image of the butterfly looks nice and bright in RGB, but may turn slightly dull looking once converted to CMYK.

So - as designers creating print publications and photographers selling images directly to clients who plan to print, take the time to look at your images in CMYK mode. If there are noticeable changes, work on color correction. Sometimes the changes cannot be improved upon simply because RGB allows for more color possibilities than CMYK, but you can still make adjustments to keep your images looking the best they can.

Photo credits: Kiankhoon.

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June 23, 2010


Thanks for sharing! Very Useful!

June 23, 2010


Ok...I have coreldraw, so if i wanna import pictures to a brochure i wanna make...how can i do to import them in cmyk?? please help.

May 19, 2010


Learned some thing about colours today.

December 19, 2007


You are right about most people forgetting to convert or even look at their files in CMYK mode. I have been a graphic designer for years and have noticed this trend only getting worse. Most people that know about having to convert for print, don't like to convert because it kills the blues and vibrant greens in an image. What I have found helpful is if after they convert they go into photoshop or the editor of their choice and bump up the contrast slightly. Also they could play with the color balance increasing in slight increments the darkness and saturation of the colors that look faded.

Thanks for your article, and have an awesome day.

Sarah Lindley

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