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How to Convert RGB to CMYK without Photoshop

Published: 20/05/2021

Most graphic editing software create images in the RGB color scale. This is a commonly accepted scale for computer display and web usage. However; the CMYK color scale is used for print purposes. It is essential to learn how to convert RGB to CMYK without Photoshop to get your images printed flawlessly.

How to Convert RGB to CMYK Without Photoshop

Images are not only intended to be viewed on our screens. Printed images are used extensively in the form of brochures, postcards, flyers, or business cards as well. Your image editing software creates the image in RGB scale, but it needs to be converted into CMYK before getting printed.

A lot of times, getting something printed in high quality can be a challenge if you don’t have access to software like Photoshop, where RGB to CMYK conversion is very easy. You need to submit the file in CMYK mode to your print provider, for which you need a reliable conversion method.

Introduction to CMYK and RGB Color Space

To understand the correct usage of CMYK and RGB color scales, it is important to comprehend what they are and why converting to one from the other is essential for digital and print purposes.


The acronym stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key. A printer combines these colors using physical ink, which is basically a subtractive mixing. In CMYK mode, when all colors are mixed together, they create the color black. This color space gives results with higher accuracy when used for printed images.


For all kinds of screens like your phone, TV, or computer, the RGB color space is used to view the visuals. RGB (Red, Green, Blue) is an additive color process that uses light instead of physical ink. Colors formed as a result of mixing light are way different than colors formed as a result of mixing ink.

RGB is definitely a larger color space as compared to CMYK. Therefore, our screens reproduce more colors than a print machine can do. The key differences between both color modes make it imperative to convert RGB to CMYK before printing, but it is advised to postpone the conversion as much as you can and work with the RGB mode to edit your images in a better way.

Download ICC Profile 

Besides converting the color space of an image, you will be required to submit the relevant ICC profile to your print provider. ICC profiles are needed when you are using the CMYK mode for a specific paper. It will ensure color accuracy as the profile determines how the colors will be printed on your image.

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

Free Software for RGB to CMYK Conversion

Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign provide RGB to CMYK conversion option for the visuals you edit through them. However, not having any of the licensed software doesn’t mean that you need to compromise on your print quality.

You can use any of the free tools mentioned below to convert the RGB color mode of an image to CMYK. 


GIMP is an open-source editing tool that is totally free of cost. 

  1. Firstly, download and install GIMP and follow the steps explained by the installation manager.
  2. After that, download a plugin, “CMYK separation plugin for GIMP.” Install it by double-clicking on the downloaded file.
  3. Download your ICC profile.
  4. Open GIMP, and open the image that needs to be converted by clicking on File > Open.
  5. Right-click on the photo and choose Image from the drop-down.
  6. Select Separate (normal) and choose the default destination profiles.
  7. Once again, right-click on the photo, and click on Image. Select Separate, and then save it.

Another free tool for RGB to CMYK conversion is rgb to This website allows you to upload the image, choose a professional ICC profile, and convert your image’s color space. It is a reliable substitute for color space conversion. 

Converting RGB to CMYK using

Allowing the Print Company to Handle Conversion

You can also use another option to convert the color mode, that is, letting the print provider do the job. Several print providers offer automatic conversion of the color space from RGB to CMYK. 

However, this method may not be the best option if you are looking for a highly accurate result in colors. Any print provider will let you check the electronic proof before confirming your order so that you can check that for any undesirable color shifts.

Problems Faced While Converting RGB to CMYK

We have explained above how the RGB color space has a broader spectrum of colors. This may result in unmatched colors when you convert them into CMYK mode. The small gamut of CMYK creates an issue while replicating the more extensive range of colors of the RGB scale.

While converting from RGB to CMYK, your computer will shift the colors that fall out of the CMYK gamut. It may find nearly matching colors to the RGB gamut, but as the software works automatically, this color shift may not be accurate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Printers Prefer CMYK Color Scale Over RGB?

For color precision and matching, printers prefer CMYK color space over RGB. CMYK color scale is appropriate for the press-ready, high-resolution images, which is different from the images we view on screen.

When Should You Convert RGB to CMYK Color Space?

It is advised to do all the editing in the RGB scale to get the most accurate results. As a designer, you can control image aspects like contrast, saturation, hues, and vibrancy in the editing software before sending it for printing.

As anything you do on a computer uses light, the RGB scale (which uses light for color mixing) will be more appropriate to use until the desired result is achieved. So, before converting your image into CMYK scale, rectify flaws in RGB mode for better results. 


Getting knowledge about color spacing and conversion gives you greater control over how your final image will look. Also, if you frequently need to convert from RGB to CMYK for printing, you need to know the right tools besides Photoshop to convert your image’s color space accurately each time.