Everyone loves a color best practise conversation so here goes:

When I lay up publications in inDesign that will go both onto web and print I do so in CMYK (cos I love print). Then let inDesign colour correct to RGB for web versions.

Now I have a client that are super protective of colours. Is this still the best way, as the RGB colours may vary slightly from style guide? I don't particularly want to have to create multiple document variations.

I have created a .ase swatch library for both web and print (and pantone) with correct values, but this starts to get super confusing.

I am also unsure what colour is best to display in style guide. The CMYK if it's going to be printed?

Lots of questions, just some advice on best practise as I come from a print background not web. Thanks!


2 Answers 2


I think a bit of trial and error would be appropriate here. Find the RGB colour that's closest to their CMYK choice, get them to approve it, and then stick to it.

You can't use CMYK for digital design. It just won't work, and I personally wouldn't rely on implicit conversion by software.

Just have a CMYK and an RGB colour for every colour you're using. It's not ideal but if they care a lot about their established identity then you have to respect that.

  • 1
    Agree with almost everything here, however if we assume the CMYK values are proper, doing the document in CMYK and expecting ID to conver to RGB isn't asking all that much. Assuming the client developed their RGB/CMYK values properly (going from most restrictive to least), the automatic RGB values WILL be accurate.
    – AMontpetit
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 17:29
  • @AMontpetit my knowledge of colour conversion is limited. I'd personally appreciate an answer that explained how the colour conversion math and logic works. My gut feeling is that a one-size-fits-all algorithm might not be as good as a manual method in some cases.
    – Dom
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 18:46
  • It won't be absolutely perfect for some clients, as you mentioned, because of how picky they are. But after all, that's why we spec multiple systems for the same colour. In many cases, however, the automatic conversion is perfectly adequate.
    – AMontpetit
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 19:34

It's easier to work in CMYK and then convert to RGB than the other way around.

At least the CMYK gamut is present in the RGB one. The RGB one isn't reachable in CMYK most of the time. On top of this, all the different devices, platforms (gamma) and software might show the RGB color differently.

The client also need to accept that CMYK cannot be used for some projects and absolutely needs to be converted. But in general, the colors don't change much from CMYK to RGB. If your client is very picky with color-matching and doesn't like the converted CMYK then you have not many other options than adjusting them manually to tone down the colors a bit!

The issue you might encounter is if you use Pantones and let your InDesign or other software convert them to RGB automatically (or even CMYK.) If you don't need to have these Pantones in spot colors and only in CMYK, then convert them already in CMYK and remove the spot. This way the software won't match the spot Pantone name to a "pre-made" conversion.

Personally, I prefer to create a document for print and one for web, or at least not mix Pantones/CMYK together when not necessary; it's fast with software like Indesign and there's quick tricks to relink the images and adjust the styles. For example, moving the CMYK image folder and linking the RGB images from another folder, using the same file names (note: be sure to be careful when using this technique.) This way I have total control on the conversion and can adjust the colors manually if necessary. When I can't export in different color modes, I prioritize CMYK and then convert my pure CMYK file in RGB using Adobe Acrobat Pro with the Preflight tools. That's another quick way that doesn't require you to export the file twice.

If your client wants the nice flashy RGB blues or greens to fit the color library you want to use in CMYK/Print as well, then tell them it's impossible!


Convert your Pantones manually to get a closer matching CMYK/RGB. Automatic software conversion or online values don't always match well. In the end, what you see is what you get. It's possible to get a CMYK and RGB value very close to the Pantone if you adjust your CMYK manually.

See the link below, it could work for you.

Mismatched CMYK Values

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