I have been supplied with some graphics for a large format print. The graphic is vibrant red on rich black overlayed with all kinds of gradients.

When I convert the artwork from RGB to CMYK the red colour in the design which interacts with transparency is drastically washed out while other reds remain vibrant.

Is there a way of optimising the colour transposition to retain certain colours? Am I missing out a stage of the colour profile change?

  • 5
    It would be useful to see a sample of the graphic so we can see what you're seeing. I assume you're using Illustrator since you tagged it. A lot of times these color variations have a lot to do with view and print settings. Do you mind sharing what yours are? Also, welcome! :) Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 21:50
  • It's hard to say without seeing the artwork. Red is a color that doesn't produce well in CMYK, so that isn't really a surprise. Perhaps your other "reds" have more magenta in the build and that's why they are more vibrant. You may need to adjust the CMYK build to get it closer to what you want. Also, for large format printing, you usually want the printer to covert the color in their RIP. Digital/large format printers have their own color lookup table and can get you a better conversion if you send files as RGB.
    – CmdZzz
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 13:27

4 Answers 4


There are two colors that are pain in the part of your back when they lost it name.
First is called "Money color" or green.
Second one is "Tomato" or red.

Both of these look good on screen but in print, because is made from mixing two paints, it can easily shift to different color.

So what to do? There are profiles set up exactly for that purpose where they try to keep red or green (not both though) as vibrant as they can. Those profiles can be shipped with specific machines as offset printing and solvent have different specification.

And at the and, as always, I encourage you to read great book by Dan Margulis that cover all those problems when you want/need to adjust the photos or materials manually.
And consult with your printer about his method and don't be afraid of preparing cromalin with different settings.
Remember, sometimes watching at printout in office or natural light can make the difference.


Printers and RIP software will do the color conversion in the RIP so in most cases there is no need to convert to CMYK. This is true for some older printers also, as long as the most current profile is being used. I say in most cases because there will be the exception here and there to that rule also. As long as the images are optimized (resolution, etc.) for the final print just about any RIP software will give you great results, you may have to do some minor tweaking but usually not much.

  • yes but then the color changes come as surprise. Some colors just will change a lot no matter what. Pest flatten transparency before any conversion tough as transparency in CMYK colorspace is a bit problematic.
    – joojaa
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 16:14

Which is a problem with the color models RGB vs. CMYK. The range of colours using RGB is quite bigger than using CMYK. Or the other way round: not every RGB-Color can be printed CMYK. You'll (the software/converter) have to "scale it down" to CMYK. The result is mostly type of "reduced brillance".

So drawing for CMYK/Printing purposes, start with using CMYK-colors. Pictures will have to be transformed anyway.


RGB to CMYK changes the color because you switch to different model and in practical a CMYK printer uses different combinations and a key color.

You should create a rectangle in CMYK, try to eye drop the color from RGB image and manually fix the color grades to fit the RGB color.

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