I have a shape with a CMYK fill color and a transparent image. When I export it to PDF the colors get distorted. In the export the color setting is in CMYK.

What I noticed is when I change Transparency blend space > Document CMYK to RGB I get the colors as they are in the PDF.

What can I do to export with the intended colors?


Eventually I realized I had several issues:

  • I used CMYK dark gray: (c0,m0,y0,k95) which was converted on export to light gray (Although in InDesign output settings it was set to Display all blacks as rich black). I solved it by adding color to the gray (c60,m50,y50,k80)
  • The images were in RGB, so the color changed a little on export. Converted all to CMYK with photoshop, so no surprises there.
  • In export settings > output I had to use color conversion > convert to CMYK

enter image description here

And got all the colors right in the PDF

  • Glad you found a way to fix your issue and posted the solution! You can also accept your own answer. – go-junta Mar 18 '16 at 9:39

Conflicting color spaces.

I suspect you have conflicting color spaces.

CMYK and RGB are color models, which are meaningless without a color space to define those colors. Examples of common color spaces are Adobe RGB, sRGB, FOGRA27/FOGRA39 (CMYK), SWAP 2 (CMYK) etc.

You need to make sure your InDesign document, placed images, transparancy blend space and export destination color spaces all match.

Document Color Profile

This applies to your Indesign Document and any placed images.

You can change the color profile of a document in two ways.

  • Assign Profile Edit → Assign Profile...

    This changes the color space of the document but doesn't change any of the existing color values in the document. This may change the appearance of the colors as displayed on your monitor.

  • Convert to Profile Edit → Convert to Profile...

    (Only available in InDesign, Photoshop & Acrobat)

    This changes the color space of the document and attempts to change any existing color values in the document to preserve the appearance of colors. This may still change the appearance of the colors as displayed on your monitor though.

Transparency Blend Space

Edit → Transparency Blend Space

In your InDesign document, make sure your Transparency blend space is set to the same color model as you document or intended output profile. You can choose from either Document RGB or Document CMYK.

PDF Color Profile

Assuming you have the correct color profiles setup on your document on any linked/placed files, when you export your PDF ensure No Color Conversion is selected in the export dialog (Output → Color Conversion → No Color Conversion). If you do need to convert to another color profile, the best option is to change the color profile on your documents—but, as long as the color profiles are matching before hand you shouldn't have any problems.

enter image description here

Note: This assumes you are using Adobe products throughout your workflow and are using the InDesign 'Export...' to export your PDF. This is also all using CS6—The process may differ otherwise, but the concept is the same.

  • Thanx, seems everything is right, but still I'm getting the wrong colors imgur.com/a/PKvLB – ilyo Mar 15 '16 at 14:40
  • What is the color profile of the image before placing in InDesign? Also, what colors are distorted in the PDF? Just the image, or the whole document? – Cai Mar 15 '16 at 14:52
  • Not sure about the image, it's a jpeg so I'm guessing some RGB. Everything is distorted, BUT the colors of the image actually look better in the pdf imgur.com/jAgMwGW – ilyo Mar 15 '16 at 14:54
  • Ok well that was my main point in the answer. Everything should have matching color profiles, including the image. You should convert the image to CMYK in Photoshop and save as a tiff with the correct color profile before placing in InDesign. Or convert your InDesign document to the same RGB profile as your image. Otherwise there will be color discrepancies. Other than that it's hard to tell what's going on without seeing the file. – Cai Mar 15 '16 at 14:59

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