How to set CMYK color on a design for printing

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You've got a design file and it's sadly in RGB format. What to do? We'll walk you through how to convert your RGB artwork to CMYK step-by-step here.

There's two methods depending on the type of artwork you've got. If you have artwork with only flat color fills and vector artwork, follow the Vector Recipe below. If you have artwork that involves photography or blurs or a lot of gradient effects or just a huge palette of colors (any of our wallpapers fall in this category), follow the Bitmap Recipe below.

Below is are some charts to give you an idea of what kinds of artwork are appropriate for each recipe:

Sample Graphics Suitable for the Vector Recipe

Sample Graphics Suitable for the Bitmap Recipe

Vector Recipe


  • Scribus (yum install scribus)
  • Inkscape (yum install inkscape)
  • A finished design (SVG format) you'd like to make into a CMYK design


Free software graphics tools such as Inkscape and Gimp don't support CMYK color or have very limited support. Scribus, the pre-press page layout program, does support CMYK. It also supports SVG, so we'll be prepping our SVG in Inkscape, then importing it into Scribus to set the CMYK colors. Following this recipe will enable you to take an existing file designed in Inkscape in SVG format and produce a CMYK-friendly PDF.


Step 1: Prep the file in Inkscape for import into Scribus

The first thing we'll need to do is open up the SVG file in Inkscape:

Inkscape-with-svg-file cmyk-tut.png

Click around using the node tool (Inkscape-node-tool.png) on the text in the poster design. Notice how blocks of text have only a dashed black line around them, and that you can't highlight individual letters? Click on the text using the text tool (Inkscape-text-tool.png). Now see how you can erase and add additional letters?

Inkscape-editable-text cmyk-tut.png

Your text is editable. This means the file is storing the text as text and using a font to display them. You'll want to convert all this text to paths to ensure the file will look exactly as designed when it's printed out. If you don't, it's likely that the printers will not have the same font and some weird abitrary font will be used, making your design look pretty different.

Luckily, this is an easy step:

  • In Inkscape, hit Ctrl-A or go to "Edit > Select All" in the menus
  • While all the items on the canvas are selected, go to "Path > Object to Path" in the menus.

Now try clicking on a letter in the text with the node tool (Inkscape-node-tool.png). It should now look like a path shape with nodes:

Inkscape-path-text cmyk-tut.png

Save your file out, in my case I append a "_paths.svg" to the file name so if I need to go back later and change the text using fonts I can. I recommend you do the same!

Step 2: Import SVG file into Scribus

Okay, so one thing to note here. Scribus can be a little... crash-happy. It's also picky. So if you don't do things in a specific order, even though you're doing the same thing, it might not work. So be careful when following these steps!

Open up Scribus. A "New Document" dialog will be your welcome to its interface.

Scribus-new-document-dialog cmyk-tut.png

"Single Page" should be highlighted in the dialog. Look in the upper right corner of the dialog and see the size / orientation options? Make sure those are set for the size you're intending to print the item out at. Once you've set these, go ahead and click 'OK' on this dialog.

Behold, a blank Scribus canvas:

Scribus-new-document cmyk-tut.png

Go to "File > Import > Get Vector File", and in the file open dialog that appears, track down the file you saved out in Step 1 here.

Scribus will tell you "SVG file contains unsupported features." You can pretty much ignore that, but know that Scribus doesn't like transparency or gradients involving transparency in SVGs so much. You'll also note the pointer has changed to a little newspaper with a green plus sign, and your imported file hasn't appeared yet. Click on the canvas with your new, green-plus-sign-newspaper icon, and it should load up.

Scribus-importwarning cmyk-tut.png

You might notice that your file doesn't fit on the canvas in Scribus. If you set the document size to be A4 in Scribus, you can trust that scribus' canvas is in fact A4. Below you can see my A4 file from Inkscape is a lot larger than Scribus' A4 canvas. It might take some investigation to figure out why this happened, but it's important to get it right so the file prints out at the right size.

Scribus-importing cmyk-tut.png

Let's take a look. A4 is 210mm x 297mm. In the properties dialog on the right side of the screenshot, you can see the imported graphic is listed as being 347mm x 409mm. So, for some reason, it imported in too large. We'll need to scale it down. Your imported graphic should be selected fully with a red selection area. Go to the properties dialog and switch out the width & height values to be 210 and 297 and press enter, or scale down manually using the corner scaling controls (holding down the shift key to maintain the same proportion and not distort the image.) You should have a graphic that fits Scribus' canvas now.


So now your file has been imported into Scribus.

Step 3: Create Your CMYK palette

We're going to replace the RGB color values with CMYK values. The most reliable way to do this in scribus is first to create the CMYK colors you want, then delete all of the RGB colors. Each time you delete an RGB color, it will ask what color to replace it with, and it is then that you choose the appropriate CMYK color.

Let's start by creating the CMYK palette we'll need. The CMYK values for the Fedora colors are available in the logo usage guidelines, but here they are for easy reference:

Fedora Dark Blue

Pantone ® 541
CMYK: 100, 57, 0, 38
RGB: 41, 65, 114
HEX: #294172

Logo UsageGuidelines logodarkblue-swatch.png

Fedora Blue

Pantone ® 2935
CMYK: 100, 46, 0, 0
RGB: 60, 110, 180
HEX: #3C6EB4

Logo UsageGuidelines logoblue-swatch.png

Open up the Scribus color dialog by going to "Edit > Colors" in the menus. The first thing you want to do is clear out colors you aren't even using, so click on the "Delete unused colors" button:

Scribus-delete-unused-colors cmyk-tut.png

Okay, good, we're down to the base set of colors we're actually using now. Next step is to create the 'Fedora Blue' and 'Fedora Dark Blue' colors using the CMYK values listed above. Do this by clicking on the "New" button in the colors dialog:

Scribus-create-new-colors cmyk-tut.png

Next, let's delete all the "FromSVG" RGB colors, replacing them with the CMYK color we need to use. Simply highlight one of the RGB "FromSVG" colors, and a dialog will pop up asking you which color to replace it with. When this dialog pops up, select the appropriate CMYK color:

Scribus-color-replace cmyk-tut.png

Keep doing this until you've gotten rid of all the "FromSVG" RGB colors. Sometimes you might end up with a color in the SVG that you don't have a CMYK color value for. In this case, you can edit the color by highlighting it in the "colors" dialog and clicking edit. Then, use the 'Color Model' dropdown to select CMYK and try to pick out a color you think would work:

Scribus-color-edit cmyk-tut.png

The best way to pick out a color in CMYK though is to use a printed swatch book. If you want some assurances that the colors will come out as intended on a professional printing press, your best bet is to buy a CMYK printed swatch book. Here's a couple:

Note these are not cheap. There are free (as in beer) option, just know they will reflect properties of *your* color printer and not a professional printing machine (but this may be good enough, it has been for Fedora's materials.) Kodak has produced some PDF booklets of CMYK color swatches you can simply print out on a color printer to have your own CMYK swatch booklet:

Anyhow, once you've replaced all the RGB colors you should have a much cleaner-looking, all-CMYK palette:

Scribus-clean-palette cmyk-tut.png

Make sure you hit the 'OK' button on the colors palette in Scribus (and note the 'OK' button is on the *LEFT*) to save all your changes. If you accidentally hit cancel, you'll have to completely redo this step over again. :(

Next let's get this into a file format ready for printing.

Step 4: Prep for printing

In the Scribus menus, go to "File > Export > Save as PDF." There's a few things to make sure you do in this dialog:

  • In the "Output to File" dialog, put a sensical path and file name. I've wasted a lot of my time in my life searching for where Scribus dropped a PDF.
  • In the "Resolution for EPS graphics" field on the "General" tab, make sure the value is at least 300 dpi. If your printer can do 600, it'll be a higher-quality print. Go for it.
  • Make sure the "Fonts" tab is empty. Importantly, make sure the "Fonts to embed" area is empty. If there's something there, your printer is going to need a copy of that font for things to print out correctly.
  • Under the "Color" tab, you will need to switch the "Output intendedd for" dropdown to say "Printer." Ignore the checkboxes that appear.
  • The "Pre-Press" tab has some options you may or may not need based on your printer's preferences. You can check them on (crop marks, bleed marks, registration marks, color bars, page informaiton) and take a look at the pdf to understand what they're doing. I don't think they are of any harm but I usually don't use them unless I'm pretty sure they'll be useful to the printer.

Scribus-file-export-dialog cmyk-tut.png

Okay, once you've gone through all that, time to hit "Save." You should now have a print-ready PDF!

But, by the way, do not forget to save your work in Scribus as well. File > Save As and pick a file name. It should be something.sla.

Congratulations, you should have a print-ready PDF now.

Bitmap Recipe


  • CMYKTool (yum install cmyktool)
  • Extra color profiles (yum install shared-color-profiles-extra)
  • A finished design (PNG, JPG, TIFF formats) you'd like to make into a CMYK design


CMYKtool will take PNG, JPG, or TIFF format RGB image files and convert them to JPG or TIFF CMYK files. In this recipe, we'll open our RGB artwork in CMYKtool, walk through the process of converting it to CMYK, and then save it out as a CMYK TIFF or JPG.

Step 1: Open Up the File

When you first open up cmyktool, click on the "Add Images..." button in the upper left and select the image you want to check. It should look something like this:


Note: If cmyktool complains "Source image must match source profile!" when adding the file, it's because it needs a monitor profile selected. Go to Edit -> Preferences..., and select a monitor profile.

Step 2: Create a Conversion Profile

In the lower left corner of CMYKTool, under "Using conversion preset", there's a dropdown. Select "Other ..." The dialog below will appear:


  • Provide whatever name you'd like. We used "RGB to CMYK for Print Conversion"
  • Fallback RGB Profile: sRGB built-in
  • Fallback CMYK Profile: None
  • Output Profile: FOGRA29L uncoated
  • Rendering intent: Relative Colorimetric
  • Leave the rest as defaults.

Once you fill out all of the above, press the '<- Save' button and press OK.

Step 3: Convert the Image

Click on the image preview on the left so it is highlighted. Then, press the 'Convert' button. Your converted image should appear in the main window as shown below.


Step 4: Save the converted image

In the lower right corner of the CMYKTool UI, click on save. You can save in either JPG or TIFF. We saved in 8-bit TIFF in the screenshot below. The file you output should now be suitable (in terms of color) for the printer.