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Converting HEX colors to CMYK

Community Beginner ,
Dec 15, 2022 Dec 15, 2022

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Does anyone have a good process for converting HEX colors to CMYK for printing? Depending on how I create a swatch, I can get different CMYK values for it. 

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correct answers 2 Correct answers

Community Expert , Dec 15, 2022 Dec 15, 2022

Use color management.

Set your working spaces in the Edit > Color Settings.

Create a CMYK Document.

Enter a Hex value and it will automatically be converted to your CMYK. 

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Community Expert , Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

@reganm70743219 What you need to remember is that HEX codes (and RGB) are just a set of numbers. FF0000 = 255R 0G 0B = Red, and even these will look different in different RGB workspaces; e.g. if its being used in an sRGB workspace or an AdobeRGB workspace, etc.. For you to set up a consistent conversion you need to set your apps/documents Colour Settings to match what you expect to see on the web. HEX numbers used in HTML for the web typically assume an sRGB (the default), so that's the profile

...

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Community Expert ,
Dec 15, 2022 Dec 15, 2022

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There is no one process. You are converting from HEX (which is just RGB) and how it converts depends on your colour management settings throughout your workflow... your apps, your document, your intended output device, etc.. If you're able to have consistent settings across your apps, then it's "possible" to have consistent cmyk values, but this only helps you: it does not guarantee any sort of match on paper. This day and age, since there are so many ways to produce printed materials, there is no "one" cmyk situation, so you don't want to convert to cmyk in advance anyway unless you very specifically know which press profile you are printing to.. this should be left for the printer and their RIP workflow.

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Community Expert ,
Dec 15, 2022 Dec 15, 2022

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Use color management.

Set your working spaces in the Edit > Color Settings.

Create a CMYK Document.

Enter a Hex value and it will automatically be converted to your CMYK. 

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Engaged ,
Dec 15, 2022 Dec 15, 2022

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If you are concerned with colour accuracy, you should be choosing colours from a universally accepted colour book. Even though the unnamed colour book provider is a jerk, it is still the best way to achieve colour consistency across various print processes and media.

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Community Expert ,
Dec 15, 2022 Dec 15, 2022

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This thread is about process colors. When converting spot to process you also need to set up color management correctly and then the results would need to different in order to achieve color consistency. The CMYK color books of the color book provider we all have in mind will produce different results in different countries on different presses and/or paper stock.

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Engaged ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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the thread is about " HEX colors to CMYK for printing" the part I took away was the "for printing" part.

If colour is critical "for printing" than CMYK simply will not do. Nowhere in the question does it ask for "Process colours" it simply says CMYK - most likely because a web user has no need for the knowledge of a spot colour, hence the use of HEX values.

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Community Expert ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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What do you think 'process colours' are?

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Engaged ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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what do you think a spot colour is?

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LEGEND ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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You have it wrong. By definition a spot color is a color that either uses a dedicated pigment or can be mixed from other colors, including basic CMYK inks, based on a fixed formula - not by layering it on paper, but physically in a bucket. Thus it bears no relation to hex colors and your advice is useless. You still need to emulate the actual color mixture on screen and that requires proper color management. Otherwise you end up with the same problem as mixing the colors natively. You can pick all the colors you want from a Pantone library and still convert them wrongly, which ultimately is the point.

 

Mylenium 

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Engaged ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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the point of a Pantone swatch is so that everyone can agree on what colour your are trying to achieve. If you think that 1546 C looks like the colour you want, as a printer, I know exactly what colour you are looking at. Therefore, if you want to achieve a reproduceable colour across different medias and printers, you need a universal target. Most print providers can approximate the colour of a pantone, if you only give the CMYK breakdown it isn't that useful. It all depends on how picky you are about the final output.  If you aren't too fussy about the colour of blue you want, use CMYK. If you need the colour to match to other things using that same colour, pick a pantone - even if it is only for a visual reference

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Community Expert ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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But that's not what the user asked, and might be pointless for their use case.

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LEGEND ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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As Doug already said you clearly don't understand the problem.

 

Mylenium 

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Community Beginner ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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I'm not sure why everyone is jumping on you 🙂 Thanks for your input. The problem I am having is that the HEX values do not match a Pantone color and there are a lot of gradients involved so we can only go by CMYK. And yes, I'm having that exact problem - how do we match the color when we don't have a reference to go off of? That's why my question was whether anyone had a good process for it as I am trying to develop one. 

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Community Expert ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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"HEX values do not match a Pantone"

And they won't. A Pantone spot colour (as mentioned before) is an actual custom mixture of ink. Hence, The Pantone spot libraries used in apps are based on an actual reading of that ink colour on a printed page using a spectrophotometer, measured in the Lab colorspace (which includes the range of all spectral light a human eyey can generally perceive). Any colorspace used in the digital word, be it RGB or, worse, CMYK is a much smaller colorspace, so any HEX/RGB, whether Pantone defines it or not, amounts to the "closest" match to that Lab measurement in that colorspace. Pantone's HEX values are based on their opinion as to what their Pantone 165 will look in sRGB mode. Your opinion might be different, and your apps, depending on the colour management settings, will see it differently, too. In reverse, there isn't necessarily a good way to reverse-match in Pantone ink to any HEX/RGB colour.

Since you are talking about a branding situation, and you want to specify standard HTML codes, you can always standarize based on Pantone's published values. But if you were give a bunch of HEX codes first, with no cross reference to a Pantone colour, you're guess is as good as anybody's.

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Engaged ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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...watch out! There is blood in the water when it comes to the suggestion of using pantones... lol

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LEGEND ,
Dec 15, 2022 Dec 15, 2022

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Your advice is irrelevant and makes no sense. You still need to work with proper color management once the spot colors get converted to process colors. Just arbitrarily using Pantone et Al does not solve anything.

 

Mylenium 

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LEGEND ,
Dec 15, 2022 Dec 15, 2022

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Hex colors are just RGB and with that in mind the only answer can be that you need to set up color management to get a correct conversion to CMYK. That's why your results are all over the place because you are not using CM.

 

Mylenium 

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LEGEND ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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To emphasise: it's normal and correct for one RGB value to convert to different CMYK values depending on your settings. People look for the "one true conversion" but that's not right. CMYK results are different depending on the paper, ink and printer. 

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Community Expert ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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@reganm70743219 What you need to remember is that HEX codes (and RGB) are just a set of numbers. FF0000 = 255R 0G 0B = Red, and even these will look different in different RGB workspaces; e.g. if its being used in an sRGB workspace or an AdobeRGB workspace, etc.. For you to set up a consistent conversion you need to set your apps/documents Colour Settings to match what you expect to see on the web. HEX numbers used in HTML for the web typically assume an sRGB (the default), so that's the profile you want your apps/document to be assigned even before you convert to CMYK.

As for the the CMYK side, you can assign a "typical" CMYK profile in your apps/document, but which one to use? Are you printing to a coated paper or an uncoated paper; are you printing using offset inks or inkjet inks, etc etc etc. as the values will be different. If you're looking for typical offset CMYK values printable today on a coated stock on a modern press with modern direct to plate workflow, select something like GRACOL or FOGRA39 for a coated sheet. You could use one of the old school profiles, like US Sheetfed Coated or US Web Coated (which for some reason is still Adobe's default), but they were measured years ago from older print technology where a larger amount of press gain was inherent in the work flow; they're not that accurate these days.

Besides, some high-end printers that know what they're doing may want you to use a specific profile or provide you with one of their own that is more accurate with THEIR presses/paper stock combo.

As you can see, there are MANY variables here.

Let's go back and ask what exactly are you trying to accomplish?

 

 

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Community Beginner ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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Thank you for your answer. The color settings were not something I thought about in-depth so maybe that's where I can get clarity. 

 

What I am trying to accomplish: we have a new brand that was only thought of for digital. We have been given mostly HEX colors to use - which are very light - so that leaves us in the lurch for printing our large format tradeshows and other things like ads and brochures. I'm trying to figure out how to convert those colors for printing, and so I figured someone in the world would have already come up with a good process for taking a HEX color and finding a good color match in CMYK.

 

I think Ton Fredericks touched on what I was already doing, which was typing in the HEX code and letting Adobe convert it. When I type in the HEX codes for colors that we do have a PMS match and a CMYK value, I get different values than what is provided. So that made me question whether that was the right way to do it. 

 

I understand that there are a lot of variables involved, and what sounds like the best method is probably just to work with one of our printers on establishing our comparable CMYK palatte. 

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Community Expert ,
Dec 16, 2022 Dec 16, 2022

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Working with the printers is indeed the best solution. Like you said there are a lot of variables involved and going from 3 color components (RGB) to 4 (CMYK) or more is just one of them.

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