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I'm making a business card in Photoshop and it needs to be in CMYK mode. Now, I'm using a logo on it that I previously made for the client in RGB mode and when I put it into the CMYK mode business card design it desaturates it a little. I'm trying to get my head around whether or not it will print how it looks on my screen (ie desaturated) or how it looks when it's in RGB mode? Because, the colours aren't accurate in CMYK mode so if that's exactly how it will look when printed I will need to adjust the colours to look like they do in RGB mode. Sorry if that doesn't make sense - usually I only design logos and I've never run into this problem before.

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"if that's exactly how it will look when printed I will need to adjust the colours to look like they do in RGB mode." This isn't necessarily possible, as bright RGB colours just can't be reproduced in CMYK - see… – e100 Jan 23 '12 at 17:31
Also, this issue won't just affect the logo - e.g if you're using black text, it should be pure CMYK black, ie c0 m0 y0 k100, rather than whatever the automatic conversion of r0 g0 b0 to CMYK gives you. – e100 Jan 23 '12 at 17:35
e100 makes a good point. And (R0, G0, B0) gets converted to a form of "rich black"--(63C, 52M, 51Y, 100K). You can read more about the different blacks here. – Lèse majesté Jan 23 '12 at 19:17
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Firstly, when you change color modes, you should use Photoshop's Edit->Convert to profile function. This will allow you to map the colors to the new profile in the least-obtrusive way. This should prevent the logo or other asset from noticeably changing colors.

Secondly, the reason people do print designs in CMYK is precisely because it allows them to work in the same color space as the printed result. However, you still need to have 2 things for truly accurate color reproduction:

  1. Your monitor has to be calibrated properly. There are various ways of doing this, but usually the best way is using a colorimeter to calibrate your monitor and generate an ICC profile that can be used to accurately map your monitor's output with other color spaces.
  2. Your printer has to be calibrated properly. If you're using a professional printing service, then they should have this part handled.
  3. Ideally, you'd also have the ICC profile of the printer/paper you'll be printing with.

If you can get the ICC profile from your printer, then you can go to View->Proof Setup->Custom... and choose the ICC profile you received. Otherwise, the best you can do is soft proof on "Working CMYK".

Though, to be safe, you should also try to get a hard proof or contract proof to make sure things turn out exactly the way you want, especially if it's a large print job for something as important as a business card.

Note: Some printing services prefer that all files are kept in RGB. For instance, Blurb—the self-publishing service—requires all images and print files to be sent in RGB format. Perhaps this is because they also create e-books, or perhaps it's to simplify the process for end-users, but that's how they do things. And the ICC profile they provide for soft-proofing is an sRGB profile.

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In the absence of a colorimeter (which can sometimes be rented from a camera shop), one can instead choose colors using Pantone or some other color matching system instead of relying on the screen to render colors. The screen is always going to be off even when calibrated. – horatio Jan 24 '12 at 15:01
Thank you for all your help. My client has took it to the printers so fingers crossed I got it right in the end. Thanks again – Willow Jan 24 '12 at 16:29
the reason i would stick in rgb is that the conversion process between profiles is destructive and looses resolution. Technically you should end up with same result as your printer but if something changes in the process then the printer would have a more faithfull conversion to the original if possible when using rgb. Big printers might have many machines with slightly different profiles. – joojaa Mar 29 '14 at 17:22

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