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Got a quick question about the difference between CMYK in Adobe Illustrator and the Web generators.

I'm just starting out with Adobe Illustrator to create my own logo and brand. The document type is in CMYK. I've selected a couple of primary colours in CMYK. One of them is blue. When i check the CMYK code on the web, the color is totally different. How come?

Picture of my primary color in Illustrator:

enter image description here

Picture of my primary color on one of the web generators:

enter image description here

As you can see even the HEX code is different. When i want to print out for example a business card, which CMYK code do i provide to my print manufacturer?

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  • Hex is RGB.... RGB is not CMYK. This isn't a "quick question" because understanding the gamut and variances between two entirely different color models (RGB vs CMYK) is not a "quick" answer. Your images show only one CMYK color breakdown.
    – Scott
    Jan 31, 2021 at 21:32

2 Answers 2

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The quick answer: Numbers are not colors. It is what you do with those numbers that matters.

CMYK is a device specific color space. It makes no sense to have a CMYK conversion that does not specify what specific standard or device space you are emulating.

Likewise there is no RGB color either. But atleast in RGB land we can make a guess that unless specified that the space is sRGB.

Unless you have told either application what your colorspaces factually are, then neither of them are correct. To do this you need to measure your monitor and get the correct measurement/calibration info from your printer

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  • I would like to add that this entire subject is very very complicated. Much more complicated than many of the academic subjects that are considered complicated pale in comparasion. Mainly because you have to deal with things that dont translate well into common language, since you need to see beyond what people normally consider reality.
    – joojaa
    Feb 1, 2021 at 7:06
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Check the CMYK code on the web

Who's web? There is no such thing as "the web" You are using someone's specific website. Let's say, Pantone.

Ok, so let's take it as an example. Pantone is an American company. In my little experience and some tests I did some time ago, Pantone's published conversions were using American color profiles. I have to experiment with modern American profiles, like Gracol, but when I did the tests, SWOP v2 matched the conversions.

This is something I have always criticized about Pantone's website. They do not publish what color profiles they are using for the color model conversions. Probably because they want to keep portraying the colors as "universal" or "independent".

This leads to another part of the answer... What color profiles you are using? and What color profiles are being used on the website you explored?

If the website you are using has no declared color profiles, do not "trust" it.


So. To define a color for a corporative brand design, use a color catalog, like a Pantone color bridge.

If you do not have one, define the colors as CMYK but declare what color profile you are using, and this depends on the region you are in. US, Europe, etc. Some color profiles widely accepted are Fogra's.

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