Converting to CMYK


Today’s Question: Is it possible in Lightroom Classic to convert a file to CMYK as can be done in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, it is not possible to convert an image to CMYK color in Lightroom Classic, so you would need to use other software such as Photoshop.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic does not support the CMYK color mode. This might seem odd considering you can print photos from Lightroom Classic to printers that use CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) inks. However, these printers still process RGB rather than CMYK color data, so CMYK color is not used in the workflow for printing a photo to a photo inkjet printer.

When exporting photos from Lightroom Classic you have the option to select a color profile to assign to the image, but that list will only include RGB profiles, not CMYK profiles. Therefore, if you need to convert an image to CMYK, you’ll need to use other software such as Photoshop.

If you need to convert an image to CMYK I strongly recommend obtaining a profile for the specific output conditions, and then converting to that profile. You can perform this conversion in Photoshop by choosing Edit > Convert to Profile from the menu. You can then select the profile from the Profile popup in the Destination Space section of the Convert to Profile dialog. You can configure the other settings in the Conversion Options section, and then click the OK button to convert the image.

In general, you should not use the Image > Mode > CMYK Color command, as this simply converts the image to the CMYK color space based on the CMYK working space profile defined in the Color Settings dialog. Unless you’ve configured the CMYK working space profile based on the output you’re producing, this would not yield good results.

I should hasten to add that in most cases I don’t recommend that photographers convert images to CMYK in the first place. For most output you can employ RGB images. If CMYK files are required, I generally recommend having the provider who will be printing the images perform the CMYK conversion, as they will generally have the expertise to ensure optimal results for the specific output conditions.