I'm using Illustrator CS5.1 and started a new document in RGB mode. When I change the color mode to CMYK under File > Document Color Mode > CMYK Color, the Color window in my workspace doesn't change from RGB to CMYK mode. I can change the RGB levels using the Color window but I want to change CMYK levels.

4 Answers 4


Open the flyout menu in the Color panel and click on CMYK. The Color panel stays in whatever mode it started in, or is switched to. This doesn't affect the color mode of the document or the color; it's just a different way of describing the color.

If you used RGB swatches in your document, you'll find that double-clicking on a swatch after switching to CMYK mode will bring up a CMYK dialog automatically, but even here you can choose any of the color modes to work in for that particular swatch.

  • +1 for the great clarification to what often confuses many - "it's just a different way of describing the color"
    – inhan
    Commented May 21, 2013 at 2:18
  • What about this answer? Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 23:26

There's a very important distinction between the document color modes many aren't aware of.

When you open an RGB document color profile, all the swatches, symbols, brushes, etc are RGB items.

When you open a CMYK document color profile, all the swatches, symbols, brushes, etc are CMYK items.

When you switch Document Color Modes mid-stream, all those Library items (swatches, brushes, symbols, etc.) do not change color modes. This is why you can often see CMYK files with an RGB swatch or an RGB Symbol used in a CMYK file.

It's sometimes better to open a new document in the desired color mode then copy/paste your art to the new document. Especially if you are using symbols, styles, or brushes.


Also remember changing:

File > Document Color Mode > RGB Color

In the color guide panel select the options on the Top right corner of the window and select CMYK from the pop up menu.

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