How to Use CMYK vs. RGB with Procreate


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When opening a new canvas, Procreate lets you choose between two color modes, CMYK and RGB. Choosing the right color mode is really important depending on whether you are doing artwork that will eventually be printed or showcased on the web. 

Choose your CMYK or RGB color mode in Procreate before you start a design. You cannot change it later. Navigate to the new canvas button and the color profile button. Choose CMYK if you plan to print your work and RGB if your design will be displayed digitally.

Even finding Procreate’s color profiles is challenging, let alone knowing which one to pick. Even within the CMYK and RGB panels, there are a ton of options to pick. Let’s walk through how to access these color profiles and then talk about why you would pick one or the other.

How to Find Procreate’s CMYK and RGB Color Profiles

Here’s a step-by-step on creating the color profile you need.

1. Open Procreate and click the + button at the top right to create a new canvas

Keep in mind that you can only choose a color profile when you start a new design. You CAN’T switch the color profiles of an already created design. Pick carefully. Once you’ve made a decision, you’re stuck with it.

2. Click on the button that shows a square with a little + in it

procreate create custom canvas

This little button is easy to forget about, but it’s important. This little button unlocks a treasure trove of canvas settings. You can set the dimensions, adjust your time lapse options, change your canvas properties, and yes, pick a color profile. Bop around to see what all of these settings do.

3. Click on the Color Profiles button

procreate color profiles

Some of the other canvas settings you can adjust elsewhere, like the dimensions, for example. This is the only place where you can pick a color profile though.

4. Choose one of the color profiles in the CMYK or RGB list

You’ll notice that choosing a color profile isn’t as simple as choosing CMYK or RGB and then going off on your merry, artistic way. There are quite a few options to choose from, but don’t let it overwhelm you.

Personally, my recommendation is to keep it simple and choose the generic profiles for both the CMYK and the RGB option. 

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The other profiles have slight nuances that are specialized for certain types of work. For example, FOGRA39 is uniquely suited for printing on coated or glossy paper (source). If you know that this is how your art will be used, one of those color profiles could be a good choice.

That said, talk to your printer and/or client before making a color profile choice you don’t understand. You don’t want to work tirelessly on a design only to find that the color profile is off. CMYK and RGB are fundamental to the print world, so there’s no doubt that your printer can help you figure out what you need.

When in doubt, pick the general CMYK or RGB profile.

Unless you have specific needs that you’re already aware of, it’s unlikely that the general profiles won’t do what you need them to do.

And, what do you need them to do exactly? Let’s talk about the differences between CMYK and RGB and why you should ever pick one or the other.

Choosing CMYK vs. RGB for Your Procreate Design

When choosing between CMYK and RGB for your Procreate design, choose CMYK if you plan to print your work and choose RGB if you plan to use your work in a digital form. Whether you will be printing your design or not should be the driving factor of your decision.

The RGB color profile includes more colors than the CMYK does. It makes sense given that even the best printers, which use CMYK, can only hold so many colors. Yet, in the digital world of RGB, there are a lot more colors that can be instantly accessed. 

If you want to learn more about how each of these color profiles work, just out my post about converting between RGB and CMYK without losing color.

To briefly address it though, be aware that colors will look different between the two types of color profiles. So, if you design something in RGB and print it, the colors will look a bit different because they’ve been printed in CMYK. 

The colors might look a bit dull, or you may have unknowingly used colors that exist in the RGB world, but don’t in the CMYK world. This can leave you with some unpleasant surprises. 

That’s why you need to be careful if you plan to print your design.

Recommended Procreate Tools

These are my favorite Procreate tools that I wouldn't be able to live my Procreate life without!

  • Skillshare: I take a LOT of Skillshare classes and they are the reason that I started using Procreate in the first place. These classes are amazing and you can take them for FREE! Click here to get a 30 day free trial of Skillshare 
  • Matte Screen Protector: these matte screen protectors will make your iPad screen feel more like traditional paper. Click here to find them on Amazon! Make sure to get the right size for your iPad model.
  • Printful: it's SO rewarding to see your own art on a shirt, mug, sticker, poster, and so much more. Whether you want to start selling your art and sharing it with the world, or you just want a gift for yourself or a friend, having a great printer is important. Printful is my favorite print provider, offering a ton of high quality products to print your own art on. Check them out and sign up for a free account here!

There are also a few other factors to keep in mind. 

Procreate defaults to RGB

If you do nothing and simply create a canvas without intentionally choosing a color profile, it will default to RGB. This means that your work will be suited for the web unless you go in and change it to CMYK when creating your canvas. 

Your Computer Will Only Ever Show a Rendition of CMYK

The CMYK color profile is designed for printers, which means that it doesn’t even exist in the digital world. There’s no way that it could. 

This means that, when you look at a CMYK image on a screen, your iPad or computer is just making the best guess as to how your colors will look printed. It can get pretty close, but it’s not perfect. 

It’s like smelling a birthday cake candle vs. an actual birthday cake in the oven. The candle can get pretty close, but it can never be 100%. A candle is a candle and a cake is a cake in the same way that a printer is a printer and a screen is a screen.

Download Your Procreate File in a Format that Supports Your Color Profile

For CMYK, it is ideal to export your Procreate designs as PDFs. If you have Photoshop, you can also export your designs as PSD files to maintain the CMYK color profile. 

You may have been conscious of choosing the correct CMYK or RGB profile when creating your canvas, but it could all be for nothing if you don’t download your work properly. PNG files do not support CMYK and JPEG files can be problematic in CMYK.

If you need a shareable image of your work, feel free to download it as a PNG or JPEG, but be sure to use a PDF when it is time to print. 

CMYK and RGB can be confusing once you dive into all of the technicalities of them. Luckily, as long as we know the basics, we can make beautiful web art or print art without problems. Once you have practice choosing between CMYK and RGB, it will become a natural part of your design creation process.

Diana Fitts

Diana has been an artist for over 25 years and has training in drawing, painting, digital drawing and graphic design. Diana's latest obsession is digitally drawing with Procreate and creating t-shirt designs with Canva. Diana has experience selling her art across a number of platforms and loves helping other artists learn how to make money from their art as well.

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