When designing for print I obviously use CMYK, however I'm always a bit unsure of how colours will turn out because monitors work on RGB so the colour you are seeing may not be representative of how it will print.

When I show clients' work, I show them on screen before going to print. If I send them a CMYK (usually vector work) PDF and they view it on say an iPhone the colour always looks completely different. Is there an easy way of designing CMYK and then exporting it as a pdf that will look correct on an RGB display so the client has a better idea of how it will look, rather than them be confused to why their logo is neon yellow when they wanted a more pastel shade?

Apologies if this is mind numbingly obvious but I'm relatively new to print process.

Thanks in advance


2 Answers 2


There is a chance that you are not embeding the colour profiles on your file, and you are not working in a controled color management process. If things are running smoothly in all the process you should have a decent preview of the final look.

If you see any neon green on the exported file you have thoose settings turned off. The green is the best color to test this.

1) Work with the correct profiles in your Ilustrator program.

2) Export a medium resolution png file with the color profile embeded. (This will give you an extra saftey that the client just have a sample, not the final work for print before all the project is finished)

3) Make some tests to see if your client have some minimum quality in the monitors he is reviewing the work, but any decent browser or image viewer should read the color profile.

*The pdf file format does use this color profiles accuratley, but not all applications to read it do it well.

4) Tell your client that colors can change from monitor to monitor or device. In some next step send a printed sample in good quality.

5) If you use a pantone color that will give you a better way to confirm the color. Show the client the pantone guide too.

You have to be sure that you are seing the correct colors, but to confirm that with your client is more difficult. You should use this tools http://www.colormunki.com/ to control the first part of the process.

  • Great stuff! To be honest, and I know this is really bad but when I save my work for PDF I use the High Quality Print Preset and don't alter the presets. Think i'll have to start doing some tutorials on colour management. This is the first time i've had to learn this side of the process. Its silly to spend time designing and getting the look right, only to be let down by print.
    – RubixGuru
    Feb 5, 2015 at 15:55
  • Here is a simple tutorial explaining a verey basic method to calibrate your monitor, otake.com.mx/Apuntes/ColorCalibration/ColorCalibration.phtml and the explanations why it is important. Even your eyes can be uncalibrated.
    – Rafael
    Feb 5, 2015 at 16:11
  • appreciate that, I think this a much larger question than I anticipated
    – RubixGuru
    Feb 5, 2015 at 16:28
  • Yea, but it will prepare you to make a jump from amateur (random) results to a more profesional work, regarding color, at least. The 2 tools you need besides your computer and software are a Pantone gide and a color calibration hardware. The cheaper is for monitor only, a more advanced sistem calibrates a printer too.
    – Rafael
    Feb 5, 2015 at 16:39
  • I think i'm ready to make that jump. I guess it doesn't help that I often transfer work between my Mac and my Windows laptop to work on Home / Work
    – RubixGuru
    Feb 5, 2015 at 16:44

As far as I know, you can't. The two colour modes are so fundamentally different that it's impossible to accurately display one in the other. Besides, even if you calibrate your screen to have Adobe's CMYK simulations approach the actual printed product as closely as possible, your customer sure as anything won't. Not even their iPhone's.

And that's not even broaching the subject of pdf previewers (even the best there are) being horrible at best at displaying print-ready pdfs.

Personally, I always go for experience: I have seen lots of my work both on screen and printed, and I have an inkling (pun intended) of how something's going to appear when printed. That'll have to do. You have the experience, and they hired you for that.

It is a very good move to educate your clients in this aspect: warn them that an on-screen preview, is never an accurate preview of printed matter. No, printing it on their desktop printer isn't either. They will have to trust your expertise and experience on this one.

If they really want exact colours, have them supply the colour to use. Be it in C, M, Y and K percentages or as a Pantone colour number. If they don't know what you're talking about (and most of them won't), you can patiently tell them that those are the only tools available for a 99% accurate colour reproduction. If necessary, visit them with a Pantone or CMYK colour book and pick a colour from there.

  • Thank's for the response. Very helpful. It's a problem that's been bugging me for a while. Sometimes i'll design in RGB for the clients eyes and when they OK it I'll design it again in CMYK. Work always turns out better second time around anyway!
    – RubixGuru
    Feb 5, 2015 at 15:23
  • 1
    You should not design in RGB mode. The only case is that you are doing something verey specific for electronic usage, and never going to be printed (probably an icon set)... That is not the case of a logo, not even for a logo on a web page.
    – Rafael
    Feb 5, 2015 at 16:08
  • I agree with @Rafael. Design in CMYK, so you won't choose colours that end up being unprintable. There's colours that RGB can't display and CMYK can, but those are way fewer.
    – Vincent
    Feb 5, 2015 at 16:10
  • Really? So don't even use RGB for web based logo? why is that?
    – RubixGuru
    Feb 5, 2015 at 16:27
  • Later, you might want to print it. If you ended up using a colour that CMYK can't reproduce, you have a problem. Best avoid it at the start.
    – Vincent
    Feb 5, 2015 at 17:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.