Working With Color

In the world of traditional printing, getting the right color in the right place on the page is something of an art form, done by overlapping layers of ink in just the right quantities using carefully positioned aluminum plates. In a digital world of backlit screens, color is a more technical process, using the spectrum of visible light to produce the desired color output. When these two worlds collide for digital printing, colors must undergo a transition from how they are displayed on screen to what gets printed on the page.

To help you design your MagCloud PDF so that this transition is as accurate as possible, first let’s get back to basics.

A lot of acronyms get thrown around when you start talking about color, the most common being RGB and CMYK.

RGB stands for Red-Green-Blue, and is an additive color model based on combining red, green and blue light, as shown in the color chart on the left below. RGB is the color model used by most digital devices, including your computer screen and the images produced by your digital camera.


CMYK stands for Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Key (ie, black), and is a subtractive color model based on layering cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink to selectively subtract the amount of light reflected off the page, as shown in the color chart above right. CMYK is also commonly referred to as 4-color process, and is the color model used for color printing both on traditional presses and on the HP Indigo digital presses used to print MagCloud publications.

From An RGB Monitor To A CMYK Print Copy

When your MagCloud PDF is sent to an HP Indigo digital press for printing, the press will convert any non-CMYK content to CMYK prior to printing. The press does this conversion automatically based on the color profiles that have been embedded in your file. If there are no color profiles embedded in your file, this conversion will be based on the default color settings of the press, which could result in a color output that is different from what you see on screen.

Therefore, to ensure you get the best output possible, we encourage you to follow these color guidelines when creating and inserting content in your MagCloud PDF:

• Images you place into your document, whether from a digital camera or stock photography website, should be left in their original color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB, etc) with the corresponding color profiles embedded in the final PDF.*

• Text and other vector components (ie, backgrounds, blocks of color, etc) that you create in the document should be CMYK, with black text set to 100% K (CMYK = 0, 0, 0, 100).

*For specific information about embedding color profiles in your design program of choice, be sure to check out our Getting Started page.

Have any other color tips to share from your MagCloud publishing experience? Let us know in the comments below!

29 thoughts on “Working With Color

  1. Film & Festivals Mag 9 Jun 2011 / 11:06 AM

    Are there colour profiles available for Indigo so we designers can get more accurate, consistent colour when putting our pages together?

    • Meghan 9 Jun 2011 / 11:24 AM

      You can download ICC Profiles for soft proofing your PDF on screen. If you do plan to soft proof your file, we recommend that you use a color calibrated monitor and encourage you to still order a hard copy as the most accurate way to see what your images will look like in print.


  2. Kevin Cullis 11 Jun 2011 / 6:00 PM

    Hi Meghan,

    I am using iWork Pages and recently had difficulty with the RGB to CYMK conversion with a local printer and I don’t want to encounter, or at least prevent, the same thing with Magcloud as I conceive of my idea and using you for my product. I have read that I can send a “Send to Postscript” file which someone on the receiving end of this file (Magcloud) can use to adjust the settings. Is this true?

    What I was told was that the conversion from RGB to CMYK caused color issues (darker) and I’m just seeing how to get this nailed down before I begin.


    • Meghan 13 Jun 2011 / 1:24 PM

      Hi Kevin,

      As far as I know, we haven’t seen any color conversion problems like the ones you mention with documents designed in Pages, so it’s possible this was an issue specific to the printer you were dealing with, and something you may not see with prints through MagCloud. As such, I would suggest ordering a proof of a test file through MagCloud first, even something that’s only 4 pages of your content, to see how the images look before making any conversions on your end.

      For the best results when designing your file, I suggest following our PDF Guide for Pages for step-by-step instructions to create and export your PDF:


  3. Kevin Cullis 11 Jun 2011 / 6:01 PM

    P.S. I dragged and dropped the Magcloud ICC into my Library > Colosync > Profiles folder. What are the next steps?

    • Meghan 13 Jun 2011 / 1:43 PM

      Hi Kevin,

      The MagCloud ICC should only be used for soft-proofing your PDF file on screen, as an option to get a preview of how it will look in print. This is usually done through a program like Adobe Acrobat, and for best results should be done with a color calibrated monitor. Adobe has a tutorial on soft-proofing in Acrobat on their website, and more information in their support pages.

      Soft-proofing your PDF is not required for printing through MagCloud, and even if you do opt to soft-proof, we still recommend ordering a printed proof as this will be the most accurate way to see what your images will look like in the final print copy.


  4. Charles Fritsch 26 Jul 2011 / 10:34 PM

    Which paper is the icc profile for? You have three different weights.

    Does the cover have the same profile as the inside pages?

    • Meghan 27 Jul 2011 / 9:26 AM

      Hi Charles,

      The icc profile is applicable to all MagCloud products. We use the same matte text paper stock across all weights, and the satin coating on the cover of perfect bound publications offers a negligible difference. As noted previously, due to variations in monitor calibration and lighting, we strongly encourage you to order a printed copy as the best way to see how your images will look in print, even if you do opt to use the icc profile to softproof your MagCloud PDF on screen.


  5. Jackie 12 Aug 2011 / 1:47 AM

    I love how the colour spectrum works.

  6. SK 17 Aug 2011 / 12:26 PM

    “Images you place into your document, whether from a digital camera or stock photography website, should be left in their original color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB, etc) with the corresponding color profiles embedded in the final PDF.*”

    So does this mean it’s okay to drag sRGB photos from a digital camera into a working CMYK document? Or should all documents that feature photographs be worked in an RGB workspace and then have Magcloud convert to CMYK?

    Thanks Meghan!

    • Meghan 22 Aug 2011 / 2:42 PM

      Hi SK,

      Assuming the software you are using to create your PDF will allow it, ideally your sRGB images should be left in their original sRGB colorspace and placed into a CMYK document, with the sRGB color profile embedded in the final PDF. Since the process of adding images and exporting color profiles varies based on the software you are using, I strongly suggest following the MagCloud PDF Guide for your software of choice when creating your document to help you get the best color output.

      If you have any further questions, please contact MagCloud Support with information about the software you are using to design your PDF, to get answers specific to your design process.


  7. Jill Grasse 12 Dec 2011 / 9:18 PM

    I want a RICH BLACK on my cover for my calendar. Can I call out Cyan 40%, Magenta 40%, Yellow 0% and Black 100% or will that mess up your printing? I’m used to dealing with high end commercial printers that require this for a nice black. I’m not sure what your presses are and if you require this as well. 100% Black only usually is dull on something full coverage. Just let me know if you can handle this.
    THank you.
    Jill Grasse

    • Meghan 13 Dec 2011 / 11:44 AM

      Hi Jill,

      If you would prefer to specify a rick black that is fine, you just need to make sure that the total ink values don’t add up to more than 300% to ensure a quality print output. Your suggested values of 40/40/0/100 will only be 180%, so that will be fine.


  8. Thena 18 Jan 2012 / 3:52 PM

    I just received a test print and I feel like there is too much saturation. Colors seem too dark and there is a lot of green…how do I prevent this? I am working in Adobe Illustrator, exporting as PS, then into Distiller. My Printer Profile out of AI is U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2.

    • Meghan 18 Jan 2012 / 4:40 PM

      Hi Thena,

      I suggest using the MagCloud Contact Form to send a request to our support team detailing the problem you’re seeing and your creation process. With so many potential variables going from Illustrator to PS to Distiller to PDF, without being able to look at your particular file it’s difficult to provide any kind of specific advice.


  9. Jules 14 Feb 2012 / 9:11 AM

    Can you recommend the best CMYK percentages for rich black in Magcloud printed publications – for black backgrounds? I have no idea what I should set each value to for the best result. I would appreciate your suggestions.

    • Meghan 14 Feb 2012 / 11:05 AM

      Hi Jules,

      The recommended rich black for printing with HP Indigo digital presses is 40% cyan, 40% magenta, 30% yellow and 100% black. If you would like to use a rich black combination other than this one, just be sure that your values for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black add up to less than 300%. Anything above 300% can result in too much ink on the page and subsequently create a lower quality print out.


  10. Leah Edelman-Brier 5 Apr 2012 / 1:47 PM

    I just finished a book in InDesign with 22 images. I converted their color profile in photoshop from RGB to CMYK before adding them to InDesign. I just realized you prefer to do the conversion at MagCloud. Can I leave my images in CMYK or should I remake the book so that the color comes out correctly?

    • Meghan 6 Apr 2012 / 12:00 PM

      Hi Leah,

      There shouldn’t be an issue with leaving the images in CMYK, although I would suggest ordering a single print copy to double check that the images are to your liking before placing any large orders. For future publications, leaving your images in their original RGB colorspace and embedding the color profiles in your PDF when you export it from InDesign will offer you the best color conversion – it should also mean less work for you :)


  11. Malcolm 7 May 2012 / 5:10 PM

    I “place” PSD photo files into Indesign to create my magazine using your presets.and using Adobe color management. In comparison with matte fine art paper prints on my Epson 3880 the Magcloud prints are darker. Am I the only one with this problem? Any suggestions? Thanks.

    • Meghan 8 May 2012 / 12:13 PM

      Hi Malcolm,

      You might try saving your PSD files as JPG or TIF files in Photoshop with the color profile embedded, and then place those into InDesign instead of the PSD files to see if that changes the output. Without seeing your file specifically, I’m not able to know if this would make a difference. It is important to note that your home printer uses a different color profile than our Indigo presses, so you will likely not be able to get an exact match between the two with the same file. If the Indigo prints you are receiving are darker than you’d like, then the best option may be to lighten them prior to placing in InDesign.

      If you have any further questions related to your particular file, please use our contact form to submit a request to our support team, as they will be able to look at your PDF and may be able to provide additional suggestions based on what they see.


      • andrew urban 18 Jun 2020 / 5:54 AM

        was there ever a verdict on this? i created my book much the same way. designed pages in PS and saved as psd (photos are srgb and profiles embedded), then layed out in InDesign to create my pdf. while most of the book looks good, some parts of the book are way too dark, mainly black and white images. did saving as a jpeg instead of psd solve the problem? i’ve contacted customer service and haven’t heard back yet. last customer service question i had took 10 days for them to reply. trying to get this figured out quicker than that.

  12. Sarah Jones 29 Jun 2012 / 10:27 AM

    I have a question about color images. I am a new MagCloud user and am using a program called Prince to create my PDF (from an HTML document). My images are RGB TIF and JPG files. I asked on the Prince forum if color profiles are embedded in the PDF, and got this reply:

    “If your images are JPEG files, they will be embedded exactly as-is in the final PDF file, so any color profile will be included as well. However, I’m not sure if that is sufficient, or if Prince needs to explicitly extract the color profile from the image, and duplicate it
    somewhere else in the PDF file.”

    Can you tell me how I can check in the PDF if the document has the color profile information that you need for conversion of the RGB images to CMYK?

    I guess my other option would be to convert the images to CMYK myself. Again, do you have any advice on whether I would convert the images in Photoshop, or wait till the PDF is generated and then do the conversion in Acrobat? I’m also not sure what settings I should use, as there seem to be a lot of variables with CMYK.

    Any advice much appreciated.

    Sarah Jones

    • Meghan 2 Jul 2012 / 1:25 PM

      Hi Sarah,

      The only way I know to check for embedded profiles within a PDF is with an Adobe Acrobat Pro plugin like Pitstop Pro. With that said, sRGB is the default RGB profile for our presses, meaning that any RGB image that is missing an embedded profile will be treated as sRGB by the MagCloud printing presses. Therefore, if your images use an sRGB colorspace (as opposed to Adobe RGB, or some other RGB colorspace) they should undergo the proper conversion to CMYK on our presses regardless of whether the color profiles are embedded or not. If they use an alternate RGB colorspace, then before you go through the effort to convert all of the images, you might try ordering a print through the site to see if you like the output, given that the reply you received from Prince would seem to indicate that color profiles will be embedded in the PDF. Unfortunately, Prince is not a program that anyone on our team is familiar with, however if you would like additional feedback regarding your particular PDF, please use our contact form on the MagCloud website to send a support request after uploading the PDF to your account.


  13. Vincent Buller 10 Mar 2013 / 4:12 AM

    Can’t see the ICC profile in the Lightroom 4 soft proofing profiles drop-down (other…). It appears installed in the Windows 7 Color Management – All Profiles tab as “Magcloud_mvc_v1” – what went wrong here?

  14. sue b 13 Aug 2013 / 12:48 PM

    i am using your rich black formula (40/30/30/100) for some of my backgrounds. can you advise the best way to display white text on top? i don’t want registration problems, which can happen when there are all 4 colors used in the black.

  15. suburubu 13 Aug 2013 / 12:49 PM

    i am using your rich black formula (40/30/30/100) for some of my backgrounds. can you advise the best way to display white text on top? i don’t want registration problems, which can happen when there are all 4 colors used in the black.

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