I'm building a color palette for a client. I have all the HEX values and need to convert them to the proper CMYK colors for print. Using Adobe CC (formally known as Kuler), I put the HEX number in and I can see the CMYK equivalent.

Should I just trust whatever CMYK numbers Adobe CC spits out? Or should I have a print shop print out my HEX colors and try to match them with a CMYK color book?


3 Answers 3


Color and numerical values have no direct mapping. That is the hex value has no specific meaning as a color. You still need something called a profile (and profile intent) to tell the computer what the color actually is.

To convert hex to CMYK you first need to determine the color via the RGBspaces profile, and then convert it to CMYK using the CMYK spaces profile. The intent comes into play when you need to describe what to do with colors that can not be converted. This is a insanely convoluted idea (see ICC Color Workflow, for a decent primer), that keeps confusing and confusing.

Now for the answer to: Why do you get different CMYK value?  Simply put, you have a different color profile and or intent in profile. Therefore showing clients hex values without telling what color space is meaningless. Anlso giving CMYK values is meaningless without a color space.


Color conversions within applications are entirely dependent upon your color preference and profiles.

In other words, when you convert between RGB (HEX) and CMYK your settings determine the new numbers. Converting on my system will most likely never result in the same numbers on your system.

If you want truly accurate color conversions you need to visually decide upon the colors. It's best to look at printed CMYK colors, not on-screen colors. I'd get a CMYK color book such as the Pantone CMYK bridge and then choose the swatch that matches your RGB color closest, and use the numbers provided there.

This question may also be helpful:
Differences in color conversion (RGB to CMYK) / How to choose Corporate Color

  • 1
    Assessing on-screen colors .. when a client complains colors appear dark, I usually advise him to turn up the brightness of his screen.
    – Jongware
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 21:02
  • So I picked out my colors for HEX, what's the best way to get the CMYK that matches it? Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 21:08
  • 2
    @user3075987 There is no best way, it depends. First of it may be impossible to choose a exact match. Second since the mediums are different best to choose a color that works on the medium best, not necessarily an exact match. Second you need to specify what your RGB profile is (sRGB?), and then specify your cmyk profile (FOGRA39 for example if your in Europe). Then do the change, be sure to print on a calibrated printer to check what it looks like on paper, its impossible to understand the difference if you do not print..
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 21:22

CMYK and HEX are two completely different color models. HEX (RGB) is additive and CMYK is subtractive.

The colors will not be exactly the same.

I would just go with whatever CMYK value it gives you, as long as it looks close.

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