How to Convert RGB to CMYK Without Losing Color


A product’s packaging design can be made or ruined by color printing. RGB and CMYK are the most famous color modes in the printing process. Before printing your packaging design, you need to make some decisions regarding which one to use. To assist you in your decision, here is a brief overview of CMYK and RGB and how to convert RGB to CMYK.

What Are RGB and CMYK?

RGB and CMYK are the two primary color modes used by graphic designers. RGB is best for digital images displayed on screens like computers, TVs, and smartphones, while CMYK is ideal for printed designs such as brochures, custom product packaging, and business cards.

Here’s the breakdown of their differences:

Difference Between RGB Mode & CMYK Mode

Below are the main differences between RGB model and CMYK model:

RGB (Red, Green, Blue):

  • Used for: Digital displays (computer screens, TVs, mobile phones, etc.)
  • Color mixing: Additive – starts with black and adds red, green, and blue light to create colors.
  • Color gamut: Wider range of colors possible due to the nature of light mixing.
  • File formats: JPEG, PNG, GIF
  • Applications: Web design, digital photography, video, online graphics.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key/Black):

  • Used for: Printing on physical surfaces (paper, fabric, etc.)
  • Color mixing: Subtractive – starts with white and subtracts cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink to create colors.
  • Color gamut: More limited range of colors compared to RGB due to limitations of ink pigments.
  • File formats: TIFF, PDF, EPS
  • Applications: Print materials (brochures, posters, business cards), packaging, product design.

Key Differences Summary:

PurposeDigital displaysPrinted materials
Color mixingAdditive (light)Subtractive (ink)
Color gamutWider rangeMore limited range
ApplicationsWeb design, digital photography, video, online graphicsPrint materials, packaging, product design

Choosing the correct color mode is crucial for achieving accurate color representation in your designs. If you create a design in RGB and print it without converting to CMYK, the colors may appear dull or inaccurate due to the different ways each mode handles color.

Using Photoshop for RGB to CMYK Conversion

To convert RGB Color Mode into CMYK, you have to follow the following steps when setting up a document:

Step 1: Open Adobe Photoshop 

Step 2: Select the “Image” option from the menu bar 

Step 3: Select “Mode” 

Step 4: Select “CMYK Color”. 

Now you can create your design/artwork in CMYK Color Mode ensuring that the printed colors will be nearly as accurate as shown on the screen.

Illustrator Tutorial: Converting RGB Colors to CMYK

You may find yourself asking the question “How to convert CMYK to RGB without losing color in Illustrator?”. To convert RGB Color Mode into CMYK in Adobe Illustrator, you have to follow the following steps when setting up a document:

Step 1: Open Adobe Illustrator 

Step 2: Select the “File” option from the menu bar 

Step 3: Select “Document Color Mode” 

Step 4: Select “CMYK Color”. 

It is now possible to design/create artwork in CMYK Color Mode, creating prints that are almost as accurate as those on your screen.

How to convert RGB to CMYK?

If you are new to designing artwork or to the packaging industry, you may find yourself asking, “How to change RGB to CMYK without changing the color?”

Converting RGB to CMYK is not an easy task, but it can be done. Before creating the artwork for your project, you must ensure it is fully prepared for conversion so you do not lose any color or details during the printing process.

Unfortunately, converting RGB to CMYK results in color changes. To avoid this, it’s best to start in CMYK color mode rather than RGB. If you can’t find all the colors you need, you should be able to find nearly exact matches.

Get the Similar Colors

The very first step to have the most accurate color is to filter out the CMYK Color code that you want after conversion. You have to find a color that is nearly as accurate as your desired color. By doing this, you will have fewer changes after converting it to CMYK.

You can correct the original file to correct the colors you cannot find a match for once you have found similar colors for all the colors you want. Once the file is converted, it is ready for use.

Use a Quality Printer for Most Accurate Results

Once your artwork is successfully converted from RGB to CMYK, the best thing you can do for your project is to use a quality printer. The higher quality of your printer will determine the brightness and accuracy of your colors.

In case you are getting a dull color or look different than you expect it to be, please check your printer for any faults or you might be using an old printer. You cannot get the colors and vibrancy you desire with this type of printer.

Don’t Fall For What You See On The Screen

The color that you see on screen uses the RGB model, specifically designed for screens. And the colors that you see when your artwork is printed on a piece of paper or on packaging.

You might notice that colors appear more vibrant on screen than on paper, and a printed project can look quite different from a digital one. This is why it’s crucial to test prints and view your design in various formats and resolutions. Examining your project this way ensures it matches your vision.

Ultimately, what you see on your screen will not look the same on other screens, paper, or materials. Therefore, conduct multiple tests and manage your expectations to achieve the best final result.

Contact an Expert

If you still find it difficult to do it, then the best thing to do is to contact your nearby custom box manufacturer, such as Custom Box Makers. We will help you through with your packaging artwork and its conversion step-by-step so you can reach your goals.

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