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I need to create illustrations for a book I'm working on that I will be able to print at A4 size (maximum) in high quality of colour, but also use these same illustrations for images on my website.

I’m new to graphic design (usually a pen on paper artist), and I’ve just started using Procreate and Adobe Fresco and really enjoying these as I can just sketch with a pencil and it's been a fairly small learning curve to create my illustrations. I can also just use my Ipad pro and not have to consider another device.

But, procreate doesn’t do vector lines and fresco doesn’t have the ability to save files in CMYK format for printing (which the printers of my book require).

What are my best options to get what I’m after? I’d rather not have to re-create the images in two programs…

Thanks!

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  • In most cases, you can save a JPG or something from any app, then convert it to CMYK. The problem becomes that CMYK support is not something that is widely done - Photoshop, Affinity Photo, Lightroom, Gimp (with a plug in), etc. You wouldn't need to recreate anything. You'll need to search for CMYK support and find something within your means. Photoshop is a clear answer.. but it's got that nasty subscription and pricing.
    – Scott
    Dec 10, 2023 at 1:05
  • Thanks Scott, but doesn't doing the conversion to CMYK after the illustration is made change the colours and make them duller? Is it possible to convert to CMYK after everything is done in fresco, and not have the colours be affected??
    – Ellie
    Dec 10, 2023 at 1:08
  • The RGB gamut contains colors that simply can't be reproduced in CMYK. CMYK is always going to be "duller" if you use colors outside the CMYK gamut. That has nothing to do with any application. It's how CMYK works - ink on paper is different than light in a screen.
    – Scott
    Dec 10, 2023 at 1:17
  • See here: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/6107/…
    – Scott
    Dec 10, 2023 at 1:20
  • Use what you know. As for duller, yes you have to design with a muted palette if you aim for cmyk printing.
    – joojaa
    Dec 11, 2023 at 6:57

2 Answers 2

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Use the program which gives the lowest resistance against the output of your ideas. Some of us are not at all talented in drawing, so we want to use a stiff enough program - even a CAD program - which creates regular lines and curves, no matter how much jitter our hands actually have. Probably you are not one of us, so use a program which lets you draw.

It's well possible that no single program is good enough for both painting and drawing vector images. You may well need two programs. It's extremely useful if there's a fast way to move images between the programs - Copy & Paste or even drag to another program. Photoshop and Illustrator play well together in that sense, but I guess you are not going to use them. Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo are another pair. Test, which of your favourites work together.

RGB-only program needs some precautions. You must use only colors which can be converted to CMYK with no loss. You obviously have noticed how conversion RGB to CMYK removes the most vibrant colors and make the image easily look dull. Avoid it by using only such subset of RGB colors which can be converted to CMYK as is i.e. colors which are inside the color range (aka gamut) of the print process. Prepare in a CMYK capable program some color palettes and convert them to RGB to be able to use them in your actual drawing program for picking only printable colors.

Convert the result from RGB to CMYK in a program which can do it. The image can look well colored if the colors are well chosen and stay intact in the RGB-CMYK conversion. Many of us make all print designs directly in CMYK just for that reason. As a drawback many of us pay a long penny to rent the Adobe CC set for the job, no matter there's been at least 3 years some low cost alternatives.

Today there's many free programs which can handle CMYK and also create a CMYK color mode file. Check for ex. Krita and Photopea. The latter is an online service which runs in a browser, so any computer is ok.

ADD: In the discussion in the comments I promised I add more later. There's not much to add because you said you now see how it should be.

If the printer is one of those who print colors properly, he obviously wants a file which is internally in CMYK mode and contains a CMYK color profile that his equipment (and staff) can print right. Why? He demands it because it's the way how you can tell what you actually want and at the same time you cannot demand physical impossibilities.

Normally that file is a well prepared print PDF. But images can probably be also CMYK mode TIF or PSD. Ask the printer!

CMYK mode JPG maybe can be accepted, too. PNG will not be accepted because it's for RGB only.

Painting program Fresco cannot make the final CMYK file. You must translate a PNG (which hopefully contains only colors which can be printed) to an acceptable CMYK mode file. Procreate either doesn't make it. Procreate can work like a capable actor and tells during the painting work "I can candle CMYK", but it doesn't output the wanted CMYK mode file.

But you have program Adobe Fresco. If you can afford also the rest of the Adobe CC catalog the whole conversion problem should not exist. Photoshop does it. Even 15 years old versions did it perfectly.

I guess you you cannot access Photoshop. Many of us cannot due its high price. As I said, at least program Krita (it's designed for painting) makes it for free. Another freebie for the job is layout editor Scribus. Just checked online service Photopea. CMYK mode so that a color profile can be set is NOT available in the freely available version today (11-Dec-2023), no matter videos like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL80J2hVUTw have existed a long time.

You can convert an already started RGB image to CMYK, but there's nothing about the color profile. I guess there's some patent right problems, but that's a guess.

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  • thanks for this response! It is by far the most comprehensible across multiple sites that I've gotten so far. You are right in your first comment - I am a painter and drawer first, so adopting a digital way of working is a matter of weighing up the pros and cons for each program for me, and trying to avoid cursing my choice down the track, because my carefully chosen colours have printed wrong... I am wondering though how I would go about creating a custom palette for fresco using only the subset of colours / "gamut" that will easily convert to CMYK with minimal distortion ?
    – Ellie
    Dec 10, 2023 at 5:03
  • Is there a youtube guide or something you could recommend for this? I'm having trouble finding something for that. Are you suggesting I could create a custom palette in Procreate, then import this into Fresco somehow? Then convert my fresco drawings to CMYK when I'm done with minimal colour change?
    – Ellie
    Dec 10, 2023 at 5:03
  • @Ellie Create any well colored image directly in CMYK mode and by using only CMYK colors- a character, a landscape or colored dots - anything which has plenty of good colors to pick. Convert it to RGB and save as PNG. Name it mycolors1.png. Open file mycolors1.png in Fresco. Use the color picker to get a color for actual painting. Do not insert new brighter colors directly with the color making tools of Fresco. I add a more comprehensive explanation to my answer later, because this is a torso. I must check does Procreate allow this and does it really understand CMYK printing . Dec 10, 2023 at 10:36
  • (Continued) This adventureswithart.com/cmyk-rgb-with-procreate tells that it's possible. But the color profile part (=vital one!) may need explanations. Can you read it or is it the same as it was found in an Egyptian or Maya pyramide? BTW comments are always limited. Dec 10, 2023 at 10:37
  • Thank you!! This is exactly what I thought you were suggesting, but the step by step directions are perfect, thank you for taking the time to help me out. And thanks for the link too, all understood, not entirely hieroglyphics! hah!
    – Ellie
    Dec 10, 2023 at 10:45
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First, I want to address some misconceptions about the RGB-CMYK process.

save files in CMYK format for printing (which the printers of my book require).

I. Don't use CMYK

A photographic project never starts as a CMYK file.

A 3D render never starts as a CMYK file.

A digital paint project (almost) never should start as a CMYK file.

Why?

The conversion from RGB to CMYK is one of the last processes to be done. In most cases, it should not be done by the author of the image. It should not be done by the photographer or the 3D artist, and neither by the Digital painter.

The conversion needs to be addressed by whoever is controlling the print process. The designer of the book, and after some decisions about the print have been made. This is to choose the correct color profile and, therefore the TAC number.

The source images in RGB can be converted to some profiles for offset print, and some other profiles for promotional posters etc.


II. But keep in mind the changes

As a digital painter be aware that a normal print can not make bright greens or magentas.

Some creators make, let's say a lightsaber-like design, a neon design, and think that the print can almost glow in the dark. If you are aware that it does not, you will be fine.

III. Options for your process: Preview

What should be done is preview the RGB file using a simulation of a CMYK profile applied.

This is normally and naturally done when using suitable software like Photoshop, which can handle CMYK profiles to preview these RGB files.

In this workflow, as you are using RGB colors, they are displayed duller, stimulating using the RGB color converted to CMYK.

But not all RGB-only software can do that.

So you could do some tests on a CMYK preview software to see what to expect.


IV. Process. Your RGB profile and calibration.

But as an artist, you should calibrate your monitor and use a RGB profile. Normally is sRGB, but also Adobe 1998 or ProPhoto can be used.

This provides information for the later conversion.

What is calibration:

Spamming time: How can I make sure that my on-screen colors are consistent?


V. What software?

Whatever you need. Your main concern is the resolution. You need to define the maximum resolution you will need and see if the workflow is smooth enough.

If you need, let's say 3 prints. One A3, one A4, and one A1, you probably want to work in A3 format (with a little extra space for bleed) at 300PPI.

You will have no problem with the A4, and for the A1 you most likely can use lower resolution or use a resampler.

So your hardware should let you work at that size fluently.

I recommend the longest side to be between 6000px and 12000px.

Let me spam you two posts expanding on it.

Billboard sized layout

Arbitrary dpi value for prints


VI. Vector files

If you only have, let's say Inkscape, you need to work with RGB.

But most of the other Vector-based ones, Mainly Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Affinity Design can work in CMYK.

In this case, you can actually work in CMYK, and this is to ensure the maximum purity of the colors.

For example, an orange in RGB could end with the necessary Yellow and Magenta, but also with a tint of Cyan or Black. If you want to maximize the purity, you prepare a Yellow and Magenta only color.


A side note

VII. Exploring the CMYK-RGB colors

I do not totally agree with a workflow commented on another answer, but can be useful. Let me explain.

  1. We know RGB-CMYK conversion makes duller colors.

  2. There is NO 1-to-1 conversion from RGB to CMYK. There are potentially many because of the color profiles and conversion modes (relative, absolute-relative, perceptual, achromatic, etc). The other steps of the process could use different settings. So you need to be aware of that.

  3. But here is a test on RGB-CMYK-RGB-CMYK consecutive conversions inside the same ecosystem and using the exact same software.

enter image description here

  1. RGB the original bright image.

  2. CMYK the first conversion has the expected dramatic change.

  3. Back to RGB (2) converted again to CMYK, etc.

  4. On the second row, I used the second and a third generation of RGB versions and combined them using a "difference blending mode". and they have no difference (third row). So it is a potential process.

VIII. Color conversions in Scribus

I have not tested this. But here is a video explaining conversion in Scribus. I think this is used when generating an output PDF and is not necessary to generate a raster-only file.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtvPUclx2xQ

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