InDesign - Print

Hello, I have a major problem that I would like to discuss.

I am a beginner in Graphic Design, and the company that I work assigned me to do a product catalogue.
Due to covid and budget cuts, we changed all the stuff that was working with us (photographer, print guy etc)
The new photographer gave us the photos in RGB Jpg (high quality, 10-15mb per photo) , but the print guy asked for CMYK Tif to be used in the Indesign file. I asked the guy who did this project last year and he used tif cmyk in the indesign file, and export to pdf with cmyk settings.

I am very confused and I would really need some help please.

What/who is the “print guy?” Are you referring to the company that will be printing it?

I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking. Are you confused because the photographer gave you jpegs instead of tiffs? My response below assumes that’s what you’re asking about.

Just convert the RGB jpegs to whatever CMYK format you need (either tiff or, more typically in recent years, .psd). Are you using Photoshop? If so, make sure your color settings are entered correctly before doing this ( Edit Menu > Color Settings ). If you’re confused about jpeg to tiff, you might be confused about the settings and, if so, just ask. These settings are important because they determine how the file is converted from RGB to CMYK in a way that best matches the printing process and paper stock that will be used.

Photographers don’t normally have much to do with CMYK. They live in an RGB world and the software they typically use — Adobe Lightroom — does not even have CMYK capabilities. This is totally fine since, as I mentioned, the RGB should be converted to CMYK based on how the job will be printed, which the photographer will know nothing about. It’s best to always keep photos in RGB format and only convert them to CMYK for the job at hand since the conversion to CMYK is a destructive process that results in a smaller color gamut. In other words, the conversion of RGB to CMYK removes some of the more luminous colors that can’t be reproduced in CMYK.

If a photographer gave me CMYK files, I’d get back to that person to ask for the native RGB files (either jpegs or raw). The photographer shouldn’t be handling the CMYK conversion, so you receiving RGB files from the photographer is the standard procedure — it’s up to you to make the conversion.

For what it’s worth, some printers prefer to receive RBG files instead of CMYK. This enables them to make the additive color to subtractive color conversion* in a way best suited to how they’ll be printing the job. For example, many digital printing processes use additional inks that support a larger color gamut than CMYK. Even some traditional printers using straight CMYK on offset presses, are starting to request RGB files that will be converted to CMYK during the RIP.**

For your purposes, though, if the printer asked for CMYK tiffs, convert the RGB jpegs to CMYK tiffs considering the information I supplied above. If you don’t know how this will be printed — sheetfed, digital, web press, etc. — or what kind of paper stock — coated, uncoated, etc. — ask your printer, then make the color setting adjustments that account for those things prior to making the RGB to CMYK conversions.


  • RBG is an additive color space. CMYK is a subtractive color space. Look this up. It’s important for a broader understanding of color and printing.

** Look up Raster Image Processor or RIP. This is also important for a broad understanding.

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Please don’t use Image>Mode to change to CMYK.

Go to Edit> Convert to Profile and select the most appropriate CMYK color space. The default for quite a bit of printing is US Web Coated Swop v2, but your mileage may vary depending on your location and/or printer.

You can set up a batch conversion in Photoshop if you have a lot of them to do.

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Thank you very much for your detailed message! It is really helpful!
Yes, by “print guy” i mean the company that will print the catalogue.

Last year, the old photographer delivered us 100 photos of products that were tiff/CMYK files and as far as i know the designer used those tiffs in InDesign. Then it was exported in PDF with CMYK settings in the output and sent for printing.(This year the printing will be in the same company and with the same paper stock so as far as i know the printing part will be the same as last year)

The new photographer delivered us JPEG/RGB photos and i am confused of how i should use them correctly. Should i convert the photos via photoshop to CMYK and then use them in InDesign (noticed that is a bit blurry when i make the conversion this way) or should i drop them in InDesign in RGB format and then export the file in PDF with CMYK output settings?

You shouldn’t be getting blurry on converting a jpg to a CMYK tif

My first answer was long and probably confusing. I also neglected to mention something PrintDriver brought up about converting from RGB to CMYK via the Convert to Profile menu options. If the printer asked for CMYK tiffs, yes, convert the RGB files to CMYK using that approach.

Photoshop does not make the photos blurry during the conversion, so I’m not sure what you’re seeing there. It’s also frequently helpful to apply a small amount of sharpening to the photos while still in RGB.

I never rely on exporting to PDF to do the CMYK conversions because I’d rather see the effects of the conversion on each photo one at a time rather than assume a batch process will work equally well across the board for every image. If you want to do it all at once with PDF, go right ahead — you likely won’t notice a difference. However, be sure your printer is OK with getting a PDF instead of all the packaged source files and be sure you include bleeds.

At the risk of confusing you more, your job isn’t just to plug photos into their spots. Part of your job, I assume, is to make sure the photos are prepared in a way that will result in the best quality once they’re printed. A conscientious photographer will tone his or her photos, but you can’t always depend on that. So it’s your job to make sure the photos are toned correctly and that the right profiles are assigned to it during the RGB to CMYK conversion.

Doing this means working with the photos on a good monitor that reliably shows what the photo will look like when printed. This means inputing the right color settings and choosing the right profile when making the conversion.

Since you’re putting together a catalogue, depending on the quantity being printed, there’s a good chance that it will be printed on coated paper stock on a web offset press, so, as PrintDriver suggested, select a Web Coated profile when making the conversion. However, we’re making assumptions here. It’s entirely possible that your catalog will be printed on, for example, a sheetfed press using uncoated stock, in which case, you should choose a profile that reflects that. The only way to know for sure, is ask someone who’s familiar with how your job will be printed.

A top-notch printer that is concerned about the best possible quality will supply instructions for all of this, along with specific settings. Sometimes, though, catalogues are just banged out with minimal care, so in those cases, you’ll just need to get the basic settings more or less right by choosing a profile that corresponds to the paper stock and the printing technique. Failure to do this could easily result in all your photos printing too light or too dark, which you don’t want to happen.

Was doing it with the wrong way.

Thank you very much both of you. Your help is precious.

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