My file is CMYK, but it has a Link to an RGB PSD file as a transparency mask.

The file renders properly in illustrator (the preview), but whenever I try to export to any other format, the colors are messed up.

When I converted the RGB PSD file (transparency mask) to CMYK within Illustrator, I was able to replicate the messed-up colors.

How can I convert the RGB PSD file to CMYK without messing up all the colors?

If that's not possible, is the best option to take a screenshot of the preview, and use that instead of Exporting?

  • Have you tried setting it to CMYK in photoshop? and adjusting the colors? Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 22:53
  • 1
    When I convert to CMYK in photoshop, the colors appear correct, or at least very close to being correct. When I import them into Illustrator using Place, it appears correct. But when I turn it into a transparency mask, it gets messed up again. Good suggestion though.
    – Brent
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 22:59

1 Answer 1


Blend modes will give very unexpected results in CMYK if you're used to working with them only in RGB.

If the purpose of the PSD is only to provide a transparency mask, why not create a PSD consisting only of the (alpha channel) luminosity values and place that instead? You could create that very quickly with Image > Calculations, using the gray values for both sources, Normal blending and setting the Result to "New Document":

enter image description here

This creates a new Photoshop file with a single channel of grey values.

If you just want to have a Photoshop file inside an AI clipping mask, then use Edit > Convert to Profile (not Image > Mode > CMYK) in Photoshop and convert the document to your working CMYK profile (the one that you've set up in Bridge to coordinate all of your Creative Suite applications), or to the same one that you're using in AI. Be sure to use "Perceptual" or "Relative Colorimetric" as the rendering intent in that case, otherwise you may get undesirable color shifts.

  • Actually, my end goal is to essentially paste a stone texture inside a shape. The texture is much bigger than the shape. I want only the area inside the shape to show the texture. Outside the shape, the texture should be invisible. A clipping mask seemed to be the way to do this when I google searched. I don't actually care much about transparency--I'm more focused on the clipping feature that it offers.
    – Brent
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 23:10
  • I've added that technique to the answer. Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 2:09

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