How to Convert a Photo to CMYK for Commercial Printing in PhotoShop CS2


Most digital cameras these days capture images in RAW, JPEG or TIFF formats in RGB mode. RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue--the three colors monitors like televisions, computer screens and camera LCD screens use to display images for viewing. Most home printers or photo printers also use this mode with their equipment for printing photographs. But if you want to have something printed commercially--such as a postcard, brochure, flyer or business card, your printer will likely request your files be submitted in CMYK mode. Here's how to convert your photos for the commercial printer.

  • Open your digital photograph in PhotoShop CS2. Select "File," then "Open" or click "Ctrl+O." Then select the photograph you desire.

  • Determine the mode your picture file is currently utilizing. Select "Image," then "Mode" and then examine the drop down box that appears. Look for the check mark next to one of the modes listed. This is the mode your photograph is now in. In most cases, you will see "RGB Color" checked at this point.

  • Change the mode to CMYK. The CMYK mode reflects the colors of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow--the color ink combinations commercial printers use on their printing presses to generate all colors across the entire spectrum of the rainbow. Select "Image," then "Mode" and then select "CMYK Color" from the list. A check mark will appear next to the words after it has been selected.

  • Make any necessary changes or adjustments to your photo file. Prepare your file as desired so that it is ready to go to the printer.

  • Save the file with CMYK in the name so you automatically know what mode the photo file is in at a glance. Select "File," then "Save As" or click on "Ctrl Alt+S." Name the file with the desired name and then add the letters CMYK to the end of the file name to indicate it is a CMYK file. Save the picture in the folder desired as either a JPEG or TIF file.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ask your commercial printer whether he prefers you to save your final photo as a JPEG or TIF file. A TIF file tends to be a bit larger but it stores more information about the photograph, which may be helpful to the printer.
  • Ask your commercial printer to provide you with a color proof of your document before authorizing mass production. Unless your monitor has been calibrated recently, the colors you see on your computer monitor screen may be a bit different from the colors produced by a commercial printer from the same exact file.

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