I need to design a pdf document that can be both readable on a computer and on a paper printed using a "black & white" (i.e. greyscale) printer. Notably I want:

  • to ensure that some text printed using some colors are still easy to read once printed
  • to find a green and a red color that can be easy to distinguish, not only for color-blind people, but also once the color is printed on a greyscale printer (ideally the green color should look quite close to white, and the red should look more black)

However, I guess that there are many different ways to turn a RGB color into a grey color. Is there a universal conversion that is done by printers (for instance like taking the V component of HSV or similar)? Is there some tools that exists to tell me how easy to colors are to distinguish, for both color blind and for greyscale printers?

  • If you have a colour printer, there's usually an option to print in greyscale/monochrome/black and white, either in the print driver options, or in the application you are using to print it - such as Adobe Reader. Try that.
    – Billy Kerr
    Sep 17, 2021 at 12:56

1 Answer 1


There should be many online tools to test images (or screenshot of pdf) and simulate how they look for various colour blindness impairments. With a quick google search I found this: https://www.color-blindness.com/coblis-color-blindness-simulator/

There may be different conversions from rgb to grayscale but the differences are minimal. If you take a light green and a dark red it should be sufficiently different. If unsure just try to print it in BW. If there is a clear difference it should be fine, if the greys look almost the same then there may be worse printers with which you could not see the difference anymore.

Setting the document colour mode to CMYK could also minimise conversion differences, though probably it wont make much of a difference.

  • Thanks for your answer, but grayscale methods can give, I think, quite different results: for instance, I'm using a color which is fine to read with the "desaturate/luminosity" filter of Krita or if I push saturation of HSV down to 0, but it is quite hard to read when I choose "Luminosity ITU-R BT.709 ". And I guess there exists other transformations. I can try to print it of course, but first printing one page everytime I test a color is a quite long process... and pointless if I've no idea if all printers use the same conversion process.
    – tobiasBora
    Sep 17, 2021 at 13:53
  • Desaturation and colour profile conversions are two different things and use different profiles. Sep 17, 2021 at 17:02
  • @tobiasBora getting same result every time on all is out of the question.
    – joojaa
    Sep 17, 2021 at 17:03
  • @joojaa yes of course he does. Apparently the method he uses to test it is designed for photo and video editing and spreads out graytones. The only way of fixing this would be for example adding a light gray bar at the bottom of the page. As the method he uses otherwise thinks the photograph is underexposed and therefore lightens up the gray-tones. Sep 17, 2021 at 17:09
  • @joojaa well, I asked " Is there a universal conversion that is done by printers", so the question of reproducibility across printers is definitely here.
    – tobiasBora
    Sep 17, 2021 at 17:44

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