I already heard that when we're gonna pick a correspondent CMYK color from a RGB one, it's "recommended" increasing saturation and brightness in order to get a better printing result, because every color when printed on uncoated paper (regardless pantone), they "become" darker and less saturated.

I'd like to know from you if that's true. I already saw that proof when I downloaded a visual identity manual from a bank here in Brazil and I could notice that their CMYK choice is brighter and has a little bit more of saturation. Here are those colors just to give you an example of what I'm talking about:

Their RGB is 204, 9, 47. Their CMYK is 0, 100, 75, 4.

UPDATE: the print shop contacted me and they said me to proof colors using FOGRA39. That generated a BIG difference in comparison with default US Web Coated Swop v2.

  • Hi joaogdesigner, Welcome to Graphic Design. The subject is colour management which covers all related industry standards and relevant issues moving an image from screen to print. Accurate proofing involves not only colour temperature (D-50) but also intensity (500 lux).
    – Stan
    Oct 14, 2019 at 1:33

2 Answers 2


The short answer is: No, technically color profiles should take care of this.

This is a complicated subject, so I will only scratch the surface. There are many more thorough explanations on other questions on this site.

The idea behind color management is this:

  • You have a screen which is suitable for design work and which is correctly color calibrated and you are in a room with the recommended viewing conditions.
  • Your print shop follows a standard and provides you with the proper CMYK color profile for the chosen kind of paper.
  • You convert from RGB (with a known color profile) to the provided CMYK profile and the colors on print should match what you see on your screen as well as possible, when viewed under ideal lighting conditions.

So the correct CMYK values for printing a certain RGB color will be different according to which standard the print shop follows and which paper you print on.

But there is a tendency for printed material to seem darker than what you see on screen. Screens are backlit and send light at your eyes. Paper isn't and requires light to be reflected back to your eyes. Even though a color can be measured to be similar on screen and print, it can be perceived differently in my experience.

Another thing is that printed materials aren't always viewed under ideal conditions. A print can have many details in the dark areas which can be seen in bright sunlight, but are lost when you view the print in a darker environment.

I always tend to correct images to be a little too bright on screen before converting to CMYK because I know that it makes better prints which can also be viewed under less than ideal conditions. The same goes for color swatches, which I try to make just a little bit brighter and more saturated on screen than what I expect on print. But that's hard to put on formula - it's a matter of experience and taste.

  • Thanks for answering, your point complements previous Rafael's answer like a charm. The room light is crucial, unfortunately mine has an horrible one, and for sure paper is limited because of light. It sounds like you already have yrs of experience, I'm not so used to handle colors and I'm still getting hurt to handle that, now that I'm paying attention since I made a new logo. 'Cause financial issues, I'll have to print my business card in an online print shop and they just don't work with profiles, Pantone or those pro stuff. I'm just trying to guarantee a good result by minimizing issues. Oct 13, 2019 at 5:42
  • Having less than ideal conditions because of lack of money is very common. I'm used to that myself. You don't need a laboratory to be able to make graphic design (although it would be nice). It's just nice to know what would be necessary if you wanted 100% certainty about colors: certified equipment and conditions all the way through the workflow - also on the client's part. And maybe printed proofs which must be send back and forth for approval. Most clients aren't willing to pay extra for that so in a way they just have to accept that there is some uncertainty.
    – Wolff
    Oct 13, 2019 at 8:56
  • It is a little strange with a print shop "without color profile". They must use color profiles in some way but maybe aren't conscious about it. In some cases it can be better to just use RGB colors and let the print shop do the CMYK conversion automatically. You can make PDFs which is a mix of CMYK and RGB, so you can use CMYK(0, 0, 0, 100) for black text and have colors and images as RGB.
    – Wolff
    Oct 13, 2019 at 9:00
  • 1
    @joaogdesigner. Your screen can only show RGB colors, so it'll always in reality be an RGB color. When you create a new CMYK document it will by default get the color profile specified in Edit > Color Settings > Working Spaces > CMYK. You can change the profile to the one recommended by your print shop in Edit > Assign profile. When you define a CMYK color it will be displayed as it would look if it was printed by a print shop which follows the color profile you have chosen. You can see how assigning different profiles will alter the way the colors are displayed on screen.
    – Wolff
    Oct 14, 2019 at 21:58
  • 1
    I know your print shop doesn't specify a profile and that's bad because you can't choose "no profile". The displayed color will always be affected by the CMYK profile of the document - whether consciously chosen or not. There is no "generic", "standard" or "ordinary" CMYK. Illustrator must convert your CMYK colors to RGB somehow and the only way it can know how to display your colors is from color profiles.
    – Wolff
    Oct 14, 2019 at 22:01

Yes, no, it depends.

The neverending question... Have you defined your color profiles?

Sometimes I do not pick a "more saturated" or "brighter" color than the one rendered with the color profile, but I choose one cleaner, achromatic.

Instead of darkening a color with the complementary one I prefer using black... Sometimes.

Your color probably could be darkened with some cyan instead of black, let's say 4, 100, 75, 0, but if the proportion of the cyan varies, it will also change the hue a bit, so it has sense to use k instead.

If your color is 95 0 100 0 it probably has sense to round it to 100 0 100 0 to avoid screening on the cyan. Things like that.

But I must say that color profiles these days make a pretty decent job in converting colors, so unless you really work close to the printer, and this includes having press proofs and tweaking the values of the ink on press, stick to the values given by your color profile.


Remember that, in order for this to work you need a calibrated monitor, ideally a design grade one, a good working environment and... TADA a viewing station for the printed material with correct illumination.


This light is pretty strong, so, probably the printed image will look brighter than your average desktop lamp.

  • 1
    Thank you, you helped me a lot, specially when you say that color profiles are getting a good job done, this is something I asked on Adobe website but they weren't humble, capable and polite to say what you said. I use coolors.co and Adobe color to find my colors, and as I've seen, they're pretty nice, amazing tools! Oct 13, 2019 at 5:31
  • 1
    @joaogdesigner It may be worth noting that there are 4 standard conversions (called rendering intents) with profiles absolute/relative colorimetric, perceptual and saturation. From the sounds of it you may want to use saturation intent.
    – joojaa
    Oct 13, 2019 at 8:35
  • The big issue is that I got a Journalism degree, because if I knew in the past that today I would be working with graphic design, I'd have graduated in Advertising or similar. Fortunately, we have StackExchange to save our lives. Some people here don't like to help as you know, you ask something and they answer you "learn first and then ask" but they don't see that we, sometimes, need kind of a quick solution because if we don't get it, we miss a possible client. Oct 24, 2019 at 19:19

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