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How to Convert RGB to CMYK Without Photoshop

Published: 10/06/2023

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Most image manipulation programs create images using the RGB color scale because this is the commonly accepted color mode for computer display and web usage. However, printing uses the CMYK color mode. Learn how to convert RGB to CMYK without Photoshop for a flawless printing process.

How to Convert RGB to CMYK Without Photoshop

You can use free conversion tools such as GIMP and to convert RGB to CMYK. Another option is to use CMYK options when making files through Adobe Illustrator or Procreate. Your last option would be to let the print company convert for you.

Even if Photoshop makes it straightforward to convert RGB to CMYK, learning how to convert RGB to CMYK without Photoshop comes in handy when your Photoshop subscription expires. Use any of the methods mentioned below to convert RGB to CMYK.

Method 1: Using GIMP

The first method is to use the GIMP open-source editing tool. Like the online converter, GIMP is a free tool that can change the color space of your file without license purchases. 

  1. Firstly, download and install GIMP and follow the steps explained by the installation manager.
  2. Unlike the Photoshop table, you will need to download a CMYK separation plugin for GIMP.
  3. Install it by double-clicking on the downloaded file.
  4. Download the ICC profile file.
  5. Open GIMP and the image you want to convert by clicking on File > Open.
  6. Right-click on the image and choose Image from the additional drop-down menu.
  7. Select Separate (Normal) and choose the default destination profiles.

Method 2: Using Online Converter

Like GIMP, RGB to CMYK online converter is a free tool to convert RGB to CMYK. This website allows you to upload the file, choose a professional profile, and convert. It is a reliable substitute for converting file color spaces if you can’t access paid Adobe converting tools.

Converting RGB to CMYK using

Method 3: Using Adobe Illustrator

Although the default Adobe Illustrator color mode is RGB, you can use Illustrator to convert RGB to CMYK using the following steps.

  1. Navigate to File, choose Document Color Mode and then select CMYK.
  2. Open the hidden tab and then click on CMYK.
  3. Adjust the color using the color slides or double-click the Fill color option.
  4. Select your desired color and then click OK to confirm.

Method 4: Using Procreate

Even if Procreate can convert RGB to CMYK, you need to specify the file's colour space right from the beginning. Use the following steps to convert RGB to CMYK in Procreate. 

  1. Click on the new canvas button.
  2. Click on the color profile button.
  3. Select CMYK.

Note that after specifying the color profiles in Procreate, you can’t change them later.

Method 5: Allowing the Print Company to Convert for You

The printing company you intend to use can also help you convert RGB to CMYK. Some printing companies even offer automatic file conversion from RGB to CMYK.

Unlike GIMP, this method may not be the best option if you are looking for highly accurate results for printing purposes. Any print provider will let you check the electronic proof before confirming your file.

What Are the CMYK and RGB Color Spaces?

Before you convert RGB to CMYK without Photoshop, you need to comprehend what they are and why you need to convert RGB to CMYK.

CMYK Color Mode

The acronym stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key. A printer prints a file by combining these colors using physical ink, basically subtractive mixing. 

In CMYK color mode, the colors are mixed to make the color black. This color space gives results with higher accuracy when used for printing.

RGB Color Mode

The RGB color is commonly used to view images on phones, TVs and computers. RGB (Red, Green, Blue) is an additive color process that uses light instead of physical ink. Colors formed from mixing light are way different than those created from mixing ink.

It's a larger color space compared to CMYK. Therefore, my screens reproduce more colors than a printing machine can.

The key differences between both color modes make it imperative to convert RGB to CMYK before printing. However, postponing the file conversion is ideal until you complete editing your images.

What Are Problems Involved in Converting RGB to CMYK?

The broader spectrum causes unmatched image colors when you convert RGB to CMYK. The small gamut of CMYK creates an issue while replicating the more extensive range of colors.

To convert RGB to CMYK, your computer must shift the image colors from the CMYK gamut to prevent losing color in the final print. 

It may find nearly matching colors to the RGB gamut. As the software works automatically, the shifting of color modes may not be accurate.

Downloading ICC Profiles

Before you print, submit the relevant profile to your print provider. ICC profiles are necessary when using the CMYK mode for a specific paper. They ensure the color accuracy of your file as the profile determines how the colors will be printed on your images.

Remember that each type of print paper requires a different profile. Thus, download the profile from your paper provider’s official website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Printers Prefer CMYK Scale Over RGB?

Printing needs a CMYK colour space for color precision and matching of color mode. CMYK color scale is appropriate for press-ready, high-resolution image printing, which differs from the image you can view on screen.

When Should You Convert RGB to CMYK Color Space?

It's advisable to convert RGB to CMYK for the most precise image color. You can control image aspects in the image manipulation software before sending it for printing.

Can I Convert RGB to CMYK Using Canva?

Canva can convert your RGB file to a CMYK file. However, since Canva is an online tool, it uses RGB colors. To convert RGB to CMYK without formatting shifts, it’s advisable to use a conversion tool and then submit the file to Canva.

How Is CMYK Different From Pantone Colors?

The main difference between Pantone colors and CMYK is the accuracy levels. Typically, Pantone can produce colors that are consistent and closer to the digital design stage. In most cases, Pantone printing jobs are also expensive, especially if they are small.


You can convert RGB to CMYK using GIMP,, Adobe Illustrator, or Procreate. Color spacing and conversion knowledge give you greater control over how your final image will look in the image manipulation application and when you convert for the final print. 


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