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The mechanics of the CMS

The main tools we use in the RGB-to-CMYK workflow are Photoshop, InDesign, and Acrobat. This section lists the locations of the essential color management buttons and switches in each of the applications.

Color Settings: Adobe Creative Suite

Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, and Acrobat

In the Color Settings dialog box, you set the defaults for how color is handled, including RGB and CMYK working spaces, rendering intents, and, most importantly, color management policies. Color settings are saved as CSF files. There are preset CSFs built into the Creative Suite, but print vendors can also supply their own CSF files that include a custom CMYK output profile customers can use for the final RGB-to-CMYK conversion.

For consistent color behavior, color settings should be synchronized among all the Creative Suite applications. This is most easily done through Bridge, where you choose one setting and it is communicated to the rest of the Creative Suite:

  1. In Bridge, choose Edit > Creative Suite Color Settings.
  2. As a starting point, choose one of the presets from the Settings pop-up menu.

There are traditional settings based on your geographic location. The three main presets are North American Prepress 2, European Prepress 2, and Japan Prepress 2.

The color settings can be changed individually for each application as well:

  1. In Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, select Edit > Color Settings. Choose CSF Preset.
  2. In Acrobat, select Preferences > Color Management. Choose CSF Preset.

Which color space am I in?

Be constantly aware of the color space in which your image file resides.


Set up Photoshop to show you the color space in two locations:

  1. Set the status bar at the bottom of the document window to display the Document Profile.
  2. Set Info Panel Options to display the Document Profile.


Set up Illustrator to show you the color space in two locations:

  1. Set the status bar at the bottom of the document window to display the Document Color Profile.
  2. Open the Document Info panel.
  3. Click on the flyout menu, and choose Document. The color profile is listed.


InDesign can contain natively produced RGB and CMYK elements (such as type and graphical design elements), as well as placed objects, either RGB or CMYK. Native elements will be in the document's default working space as defined in the color settings.

Placed elements (from Photoshop and Illustrator) will be in their own color space. To see the color space of each element:

  1. Choose Window > Info to open the Info panel. Click on the flyout menu and choose Show Options.
  2. Click on any placed element in the InDesign document. The color space of that element will be shown in the Info panel.


Management of PDF files for production output are best handled by third-party software such as Enfocus's Pit Stop and Instant PDF.

How do I convert?


  1. Choose Edit > Convert to Profile. Use the Basic options. The color space your file currently occupies is shown in the Source Space section.
  2. Choose your destination space from the pop-up menu in the Destination Space section.
  3. Choose your rendering intent from the Conversion Options section.
  4. Be sure to check Use Black Point Compensation.

The Advanced Options are very useful, but an in-depth discussion is for another day.


RGB-to-CMYK conversions should be performed in Photoshop because of the extra control Photoshop affords you. As we'll see in Chapter 6, sometimes the conversion is not so simple as File > Convert to Profile. There are times when you'll want to edit the CMYK tonal values in the file after the conversion. Those converted CMYK elements can then be placed into InDesign.


PDF files can contain a variety of elements, including RGB, CMYK, and spot colors. To convert all elements to the final CMYK output space:

  1. Select Advanced > Print Production > Convert Colors.
  2. In the Convert Colors dialog box, choose the destination space for the conversion.
  3. At the top of the Convert Colors dialog box, each element is listed separately, giving you the opportunity to instruct Acrobat on whether to convert or preserve RGB and CMYK elements, as well as how to handle spot colors.

What if I receive an untagged file?

Don't let any untagged files slip through the cracks. Fix them when they come into your hands; pass them on with an accurate profile. Fix it in Photoshop.


  1. Choose Edit > Assign Profile.
  2. Select the Preview checkbox.
  3. Click the Profile radio button.
  4. From the Profile pop-up menu, choose the profile that looks best.
  5. Click OK.

Untagged RGB files will most likely be sRGB, but they could be anything. Untagged CMYK files will most likely be U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2, but they also could be anything.

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