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I want to create brand assets, in which the logo is a vectorgraphic with color and an alternative in black-and-white.

The logo is quiet complex and I need both CMYK and RGB (and black-and-white) exports.

Is it possible to create / maintain just one master-file?

Or do I need at least two files, one with "RGB Document Color Mode" and the other with "CMYK Document Color Mode"?

I guess the monochrome option would only be for CMYK-Print (black-and-white print). There might also be the possibility to use spot colors for the logo. Thus, there would be yet another file for the logo in spot color, which would only be used in larger print quantities.

Because if anything changes in the future, two master files would need to be changed, instead of just one. Seems complicated.

How do you deal with this situation in Adobe Illustrator?

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  • You can script the asset generation. But yes you can use global swatches for changing the color.
    – joojaa
    Aug 24 at 14:27
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Logo files, once complete and approved, should not be changing with any sort of regularity. Once a decade or less, really. There shouldn't ever be a concern about repeated changes to multiple files. If files are changing often you may want to rethink brand continuity and integrity. Once created a logo should really only ever change in order to possibly update a clearly dated appearance. For example Burger King's logo changed once in 20 years. Same for Taco Bell's logo - once in 20 years. Then there's AT&T - 1889, 1900, 1969, 1984, 2000, 2005, 2016 - some changes spawned due to legal issues. Nothing with any sort of regularity.


My Workflow, realizing many client are unaware of the color shifts that can occur.....

  • I start all designs with a solid black version for preliminaries and overall design approval.
  • Once the forms are approved, I create a greyscale version to indicate possible color breakouts. This may ultimately be for my use only in order to explore possible color breaks. Depending on how savvy and involved the client is I may not seek their approval for the greyscale version.
  • Once colors are chosen I'll create a Spot Color version, but will then convert that to an RGB version for color approval from the client. I create the spot version first so I can choose good spot colors. I then convert it to RGB for client approval because RGB is the easiest for a client to view. I would note, I do also check the colors in CMYK to ensure there's no hard shift that's going occur.
  • Once the RGB version is approved, I then create the CMYK version for print production.
  • Write up the usage guide.

I don't seek client approval for the Spot and CMYK versions. The client approved the RGB colors, it's up to me to ensure I match those colors as accurately as possible for the CMYK/Spot versions. The client ultimately approves just 2 files for any logo project - the forms in solid black, then the color in RGB.

I end up with 5 files - black, greyscale, RGB, CMYK, Spot. These are then broken out into formats/sizes to create a "deliverable package" for the client. I retain the 5 base files in .ai format for future projects and place them a directory of logos. All the various formats/sizes are archived with the original logo project files and really never touched again unless I need to restore from a backup.

Moving forward I will merely chose the files I need from the 5 base files depending upon what any future project requires.

If by "assets" you mean collateral materials that have the logo as part of the overall design, then I merely link to one of the 5 base files. You can link to these in, well all the Adobe apps I use. It may not be possible in non-Adobe software. But by linking to them there's still just the same 5 base files. If one of them were to change, all subsequent links would present themselves as needing an update.


I do not think it's possible to maintain a single file for a logo if you care about color. By having these 5 base files all the work has been done. In the future, I do not need to concern myself with color shifts, assuming I chose the correct version for use in a given project. All the effort/work put into creating various color versions is expensed in the logo project and once complete, there should be no reason to alter those 5 base files.

If a single file were used I'd need to alter color each and every time necessary and then check it. Most likely after a period of time, there would end up being multiple variations of the same colors because I may use 50%C one time and 52%C another and 54%C in another, etc. This is compounded if multiple people are working on multiple projects. These variations are what I want to avoid and why I set up the 5 base files from the start.

Even when a client sends me their logo, and it's a single RGB, CMYK, or Spot file, I'll take the time to create these 5 base files for internal use (and build some time into the project cost knowing I'll need to do this). My overall mindset is that I'm a craftsman and this is my profession. It's not extra work or untenable to invest some time in order to ensure all projects moving forward will be the best they can be. Sure I could save some time up front by just using an RGB file for everything. But that's not really doing my best.

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  • I basically do this but I don't have as much and extensive experience as you do. One thing I have done, though, is use layers in the AI file with CMYK and grayscale, and when placing the logo, and after placement IIRC, in Indesign specifically, one can toggle layer visibility. In this way one can maintain a single file for two color models. In my experience, the greyscale prints fine as one color as expected.
    – Yorik
    Aug 24 at 19:45
  • @Yorik Sure that works.. greyscale is just the black plate :) My only issue is the Indesign layer toggling. It's absolutely great and I use it all the time. But for a logo I'd rather have individual files. I don't trust that the toggling will always be maintained and I can very well overlook a logo if it's not the right layer displaying, especially if it's tiny. But that's really more preference than anything else.
    – Scott
    Aug 24 at 19:49
  • Oh agreed totally, portability and long-term archiving are potentially serious downsides
    – Yorik
    Aug 24 at 19:51
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    @Wolff Well, that's another matter. I use the standard North American CMYK profiles (since I'm in the US). If they are to print elsewhere, hopefully that print provider cares about color and will address it :) But yes, I've seen some foreign printed materials that I, personally, would not have approved even though the client seems okay with them.
    – Scott
    Aug 24 at 20:06
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    Spot color is for Pantone ink printing with a limited palette. Most items are printed with 1, 2, 3, or 4 colors. The Spot color version is for the 2 and 3 color printing. Spot colors are also commonly used for non-standard items such as packaging, signage, vehicle wrapping, etc.. The greyscale version is for one color printing when a solid black logo is not preferred. The greyscale version can maintain some dynamic appearance of a logo when a solid black version won't. @HashimAziz
    – Scott
    Aug 25 at 22:06
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Others may have their own work flow, but here's what I do, generally. I would hesitate to call this "best practice". I think best is far too subjective a word. What's best for me might not be best for others.

I usually design the spot colour version first, but only if my customer requests this and if it's practical. Not all logos lend themselves to reproduction in spot colours. Create a CMYK version, and then a single color version (whether black and white, or spot, could be either or both), and keep these all together in one document (i.e. in a CMYK document). These can all exist together in just one CMYK .ai file quite happily. This I treat as the master document.

It's trivial to export an RGB image file such as PNG/JPEG from this CYMK master document, or even copy and paste the CMYK version of the logo into an RGB .ai document, where it is instantly be converted to RGB anyway.

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  • As far as I know it is considered best practice to create RGB versions as well. Big chain brands that I worked for require this for logo creations. But I am not entirely sure why. Maybe because every app converts CMYK to RGB a bit different. But yes agree seems pretty trivial as these differences are very minor. Aug 24 at 16:05
  • If I specify an explicit RGB color, it exports wrong. I have a CMYK orange in my CMYK document. But for web purposes, a different RGB orange looks better on screen. Thus, I have two swatches. If I apply the RGB swatch in my CMYK document and export it to RGB, it has a different RGB value than the swatch had. This is what I meant with "two documents". Is there a workaround or what do you recommend (to not need to maintain two documents)? Aug 24 at 16:06
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    RGB images, even with the correct colour profile (sRGB) will display as different colours on different devices, unless those viewing the images have calibrated their displays using a hardware calibration device. This is not practical. You can't force users/viewers to calibrate their devices. If you are expecting RGB colours to match print, it's a fools errand. Therefore specifying RGB colours is utterly pointless in my opinion, although I know people do it.
    – Billy Kerr
    Aug 24 at 16:12
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    If a color "exports wrong" there could be some color profile confusion. I mean if you mean that the orange CMYK looks correct on screen and then if you export as RGB it looks different, there must be something going wrong. The CMYK orange you see on screen is RGB so it should be possible to export correctly as RGB. (There are a few CMYK colors such as clean cyan that are out of sRGB gamut. Don't know if that's what's happening.)
    – Wolff
    Aug 24 at 16:19
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    @wolff - I agree, it should be possible to convert any CMYK colour to RGB, or very close, but something could go wrong if the wrong colour profile is used. It should always be sRGB for the web.
    – Billy Kerr
    Aug 24 at 16:25
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I will only complement Scott's answer.

There are two reasons a color might change.

  1. The brand is updated for some reason. Probably to modernize it, or if things were not done correctly... to correct something.

  2. The standards changed enough to update the files.

The second one will not happen. That is why you use some standards, like color profiles (Like Gracol, Swop, Fogra, etc.) or recognized brands for spot inks (Pantone, Toyo, etc). There can be the case you need to use a new standard, so you update several things on the brand manual.

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    +1 Great points.. I'd edit to add these points to my answer, but, well, that seems too much like intellectual property theft :)
    – Scott
    Aug 26 at 20:34
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Is it possible to create / maintain just one master-file?

Yes. SVG with embedded CSS and/or JavaScript. Whether any particular tool like AI supports this is another story. But you can definitely have a single file that reacts to some external selector that switches the appearance between color and monochrome - you can have several appearances, in fact, based on scaling and device type as well. E.g. what you present monochrome on-screen vs. in monochrome print may well be different, etc. You can also have an appearance for spot-color printing. And so on. It depends on what you need, but it can be a single file that will adapt itself automagically (or with an explicit external selection) to the circumstances.

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    SVG is inappropriate for print production. Imagesetters will choke on it. And there's no CSS nor javascript in print production either. If considering ONLY web delivery then sure any RGB file would work, svg or otherwise.
    – Scott
    Aug 25 at 19:13

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