I'm having an issue with Illustrator CS5 that I've seen mentioned in many, many forums, but I haven't found an answer that has fixed my problem.

When I use Save for Web & Devices... to create a png, it comes out in nice beautiful colors. When I use Export... or Save Selected Slices... to create a png, it comes out in very dull colors.

It seems to affect all the colors, but here's an example:

Good red:


(created with Save for Web & Devices)

Bad red:


(created with Save Selected Slices... and identical to those created with Export...)

Also, in the dull versions the black becomes a dark gray.

Here's some info about my setup:

  • The document is set to RGB, not CMYK.
  • I have Appearance of Black set to Display All Blacks as Rich Black and Output All Blacks as Rich Black.
  • In the color settings, my working space RGB is set to sRGB.
  • In Assign Profile... I have tried all three of the options: Don't color manage, Working RGB, and some of the other profiles. They all produce the same dull results when I export.
  • I wouldn't think this would matter, but I'm using Windows 7. The difference in color is obvious on both my laptop screen and my nice large external monitor. I've gone through various color calibration tools and instructions, and that has changed nothing.

Finally, here's something interesting that may help with troubleshooting:

While I was exporting this with all the different settings, at one point I decided to paste two of the exported pngs into Illustrator so I could put them right next to each other and compare the colors. To my surprise, the dull exported pngs appear bright and normal when they are pasted into Illustrator.

If you can help shed some light on this, I'd appreciate it. Soon I will need to be exporting some slices, and I need the colors to come out right at that time.


Update: As suspected, the document was created in Adobe RGB (by someone else, not me). Here's an informative article that explains why my colors were coming out dull in detail: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/adobe-rgb.htm

  • 1
    One thing to take from this is that on the web, there is no guarantee that the profile will be honored at all in software (web browser) and then there is the uncalibrated monitor issue. Your job is to get accurate color but there may be a time when you'll need to cut your losses and "stop worrying about the bomb."
    – horatio
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 16:15
  • @horatio I thought it was: "All work and no play makes color dull"
    – Joonas
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 21:58
  • That works too, but it didn't work out too well for those folk at the hotel.
    – horatio
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 14:09

8 Answers 8


I'd guess that the problem is your starting point for the document. Choose "Web" for the document type rather than Basic RGB, or be very sure the color space is sRGB and not the wider Adobe RGB. Going that route, I see no difference in the output of Export or Save for Web, and wouldn't expect to.

When you Save for Web, you don't see a problem because AI converts the color profile to sRGB while preserving the appearance.

The other setting that you should change is the Black. Always keep it at "Accurately" for display and output. You can be seriously embarrassed otherwise.

As a general rule with color profiles, don't use "Assign...". Instead use only "Convert to Profile" with either "Perceptual" or "Relative Colorimetric" chosen in the options if you need to change the color profile of a document. An Adobe RGB image assigned an sRGB color profile will appear dull, because there is no conversion involved. The color numbers are simply interpreted differently. Converting from one to the other preserves the appearance by changing the underlying numbers.

  • Alan, thanks for your help. This certainly sounds reasonable -- I'll do some testing and see if I can reproduce it this way.
    – Sarah
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 1:04
  • Also, I wasn't familiar with Convert to Profile and I found this rather snarky thread about it: forums.adobe.com/message/3583833 To summarize, it sounds like Convert to Profile isn't in Illustrator at all. Given that, do you sanction their workaround? Or does Illustrator have a better way? Regardless of whether you get a chance to take a look, thanks very much!
    – Sarah
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 1:08
  • Sometimes I forget which program I'm working with. In AI, Convert to Profile still isn't an available main menu option. Convert to sRGB is an option in the Save for Web dialog (via the almost-invisible flyout menu). A web document, however, is always sRGB because it's the web standard. A "Basic RGB" document will use whatever your current default RGB profile is, which I'm guessing from your description of the problem is Adobe RGB. It exports "untagged" RGB, so you can convert or assign in PS after the fact, but the Web intent works best. Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 4:45
  • That all makes sense. I don't seem to be able to determine what I selected when I created the document, unfortunately -- I'm not sure where that info is noted. However, I did find out that if I change the profile to something besides Adobe RGB, Save for Web gives me the dull colors also. Given that, am I correct that there is then no way to use Export... to get the bright colors since it doesn't convert to sRGB? Thanks again for your help.
    – Sarah
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 17:36
  • Try to stick with Web as the type of document. That should always be sRGB, since that is the web standard, regardless of how you export it. Save for Web has a flyout menu that includes an option to convert to sRGB, but that only works if it's checked. Otherwise, you can batch run all your output through a Photoshop action that assigns sRGB and re-saves. Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 23:28

I was having this same issue and then this did it for me. I had a feeling it was something extremely silly and simple. I was changing the color mode to RGB from CMYK in the color palette and wasn't getting the results.


Hope this helps, it worked for me.


Here's what I think is going on. Illustrator is exporting your images as PNG-24s, using an sRGB profile. That means you needed to be working in sRGB all along.

It's probably too late for that, so you can do this to convert your document. Maybe there's an easier way, but this worked for me (in CS3):

  • Create a new document
  • Change the Document Color Mode to RGB from the File menu
  • Go to Edit > Assign Profile and assign the "sRGB..." profile to the document
  • Copy everything from your original document into the new document
  • When prompted, choose to convert the colors of the Content you are pasting to preserve their appearance
  • Export your image and say thanks to your higher power

I do believe that I have found a solution to this problem: When you have exported your images as png in Illustrator; open them i Apple Preview. Then choose:
Assign profile->
Click OK

Now the colors will be sRGB again; just as in the original Illustrator file. This can be confirmed by using the Apple DigitalColor Meter (found in the Utilities folder of the Applications folder).


One thing I have found makes a huge difference (and I mean monumental) is the colour profile of the document you select at the start.

If you are making something, particularly images with complex graduated tones (like photographs), that will only be displayed on monitors always make sure that you select the RGB colour mode from the 'New Document' window. If you select CMYK and then place in a photograph or other complex image (which will usually be in RGB mode), the damage will already be done as Illustrator will attempt to convert the RGB profile colours of the photograph to the CMYK workspace upon the photograph's entry to the document. Using the 'Save for Web' functions (which outputs RGB), Illustrator will attempt to convert between the two colour modes again, meaning you now have an approximation of an approximation, which I'm sure you'll agree isn't an ideal state of affairs.

To see what I mean, I'd urge you to start a new RGB document and a new CMYK document with the same size art board and place in the same photograph (something with areas of red is particularly good for this I've found) at the same size. Flicking between the two, you'll notice that the colours in the CMYK document seem a lot duller, due to its approximations. Try it yourself, I think you'll be quite surprised!


For web and app design, the best solution I’ve found is to disable Illustrator’s colour management for RGB documents as much as possible. Doing so forces RGB colours on screen and saved to file to match the actual colour value.

Step 1 — Choose Edit > Color Settings... and set the working space for RGB to Monitor RGB.

enter image description here

Step 2 — Open a document and choose Edit > Assign Profile..., then set it to Don’t Color Manage This Document. This must be done for every single document you work on.

enter image description here

Step 3 — Ensure View > Proof Colors is turned off.

Step 4 — When saving files with Save For Web & Devices..., ensure Convert to sRGB is turned off. If you’re saving a JPEG file, then also turn off Embed Color Profile (there are some cases where you might want this on for photos, but chances are you’ll want it off for interface elements and icons).

enter image description here

  • 1
    Thanks for your help! Unfortunately, I followed your instructions, but the colors are still dull when I export or save slices. (Also, just to clarify - I have no problems when I save for web and devices.)
    – Sarah
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 16:32
  • Interesting. Sorry, I can't think of anything else that might be causing the issue. Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 23:24

A few reality checks on your color:

  • Rich black is meaningless for web. You want screen black, which you're getting if you use RGB(0,0,0).
  • Ensure that you do not have Proof colors checked in the view menu. View > Proof Colors
  • And don't judge your colors on a good monitor like a MacBook or iMac, unless that's what your audience is seeing.

Also, you should keep in mind what's going to happen to your graphics when they hit various browsers. Here's a good explanation of why you're still at the mercy of the browser when it comes to color display. Edge-of-the-gamut colors like your orange are going to be especially tricky.


On Windows using Adobe Illustrator CC 22.1:

I got this issue resolved by going to Edit > Color Settings... and then switching from Adobe RGB so sRGB under the Working Spaces section.

After doing this my document still has the correct CMYK profile (which was Coated in my cases), which is needed for proper print, but any Exports through the Asset Exports window has crispy RGB color for expected for screen usage. Prior to doing this change my pixel exports came out dull, just as described.

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