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I am in the process of colouring a series of hand-drawn illustrations in Photoshop using a graphics tablet. The colouring process takes place mostly using Photoshop's native drawing tools - the pencil, airbrush, etc.

The final goal for these illustrations is printing on a digital offset printing machine.

My plan was to work in RGB colour space to have all of Photoshop's functions available, and worry about CMYK conversion at a very late point - or even sending RGB data to the printer's, letting them take care of the conversion and then fine-tune during the proof printing process.

Are there arguments from the world of professional print production that speak against this? Should I be taking CMYK into consideration much earlier so I don't use areas of the colour space that can never be reproduced on paper?

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You don't need to work in CMYK directly. Stay in RGB as long as you want. When you're ready to send to the printer, save your original, then Save As PDF/X-1a using [filename]_CMYK.pdf or something similar, which will convert to CMYK on the fly. Use as your output color profile in the PDF dialog the one that your printer recommends. (ALWAYS ask your printer.)

You can also use Edit > Convert to Profile and select a CMYK profile. The end result will be exactly the same.

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Isnt this why it is better to directly in CMYK? Your colors will look different once you convert to CMYK from RGB. This is why i prefer to work in CMYK, so i know exactly what the output will be while editing –  Luuk Sep 5 '11 at 11:59
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As the OP points out, there are many filters, including the entire "Filter Gallery" and Pixelbender sets, that aren't available in CMYK. –  Alan Gilbertson Sep 5 '11 at 19:16
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You can set your document space as RGB (so you have access to all the filters) but set the preview as CMYK (so you get an idea of how it will look once printed).

To set the preview as CMYK, select "Menu->View->Proof Setup" and select "Working CMYK".

This way, you would be drawing in the RGB space but you will be shown a soft (approximate) proof if how it will translate to CMYK.

Notice that there are other options on Proof Setup. If you select Internet Standard RGB (sRGB), for example, you will see how your art looks in RGB. If you switch back and forth between CMYK and RGB you will get a better idea of what are the parts of your art that will change more once translated to CMYK.

Take a look at this green square, for example, which is one of the colours that suffers more in the translation (thanks to the weakness of C ink).

enter image description here

The accuracy of the preview, of course, will depend on how accurately calibrated your screen is.

After you are done, you can convert your art to CMYK the way Alan Gilbertson suggested.

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