How to Change Color Mode in Adobe Illustrator

You can change color mode in Adobe Illustrator in three easy ways. You can change document color mode, color panel color mode, and object color mode. 

You may frequently need to switch color modes when designing for web and print. The RGB color mode is best for light-based displays and the CMYK is best for print designs because it achieves optimal results.

My name is Rita. I have been designing with Adobe Illustrator for over five years. I mainly use Adobe Illustrator to create both web and print designs which required me to change color modes.

In this tutorial, I will show you three quick methods to change color modes in Adobe Illustrator. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • You can change the color mode of specific objects or the color mode of your palette on your artboard in the Color panel.
  • Adobe Illustrator supports only the CMYK and RGB for document color modes. There are other color mode options for objects and color panels.
  • You can see the color mode when you create a new document in Adobe Illustrator. You can switch between RGB and CYMK color modes. 

3 Quick Ways to Change Color Modes in Adobe Illustrator

Note: All the screenshot used in this tutorial is taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows Version. Other versions like Mac may look different. 

Method 1: Change Document Color Mode 

CMYK & RGB are the only options for changing document color mode in Adobe Illustrator. It is easy to change color mode in Adobe Illustrator.

Simply go to File > Document Color Mode and select your preferred option from the overhead menu.

Method 2: Change the Color Panel Color Mode

A color panel will display various color ranges depending on the hues used in the color mode. Your color scheme will be set to the same color settings in your document by default but you can switch different color settings following the easy steps below:

Step 1: Open the Color panel from the overhead menu Window > Color

This command will open the color panel. You will see something like the image below. 

Step 2: Click the hidden menu to reveal other color panel color modes. You can scroll to select your preferred color mode.

You can choose between Grayscale, RGB, HSB, CMYK, and Web Safe RGB.

Note: You can change the color mode while working your on project.

Let’s quickly take a look at what each color mode means.

RGB is an additive color mode. It is referred to as an additive because light is often added to produce color variations. The RGB color mode uses Red, Green, and Blue hues to create color variations.

This is the best color mode for screen display eg. TV, mobile, and computer screens. RGB is the recommended color mode for web-based images.

CMYK is referred to as a subtractive color mode because it subtracts the color Red, blue, and green from white light. This subtractive color mode uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (which is black) hues to create color variations.

CMYK is the standard color mode for printing. 

GrayScale uses only the lightness component to create color variation. When you see an image in grayscale, you only see black and white. In reality, many degrees of gray lie in between the black-and-white image.

Each digital image pixel has a value between 0 (black) and 255. (white). In print, the values describe the amount of black ink utilized and range from 0% (white) to 100% (black).

HSB uses Hue (H), Saturation (S), and Brightness (B) to make color variations. This also makes up the HSB color model. 

HSV is another name for HSB (with the components hue, saturation, and value).

Method 3: Change Object Color Mode

You can change the object color mode from the color panel. You can do this by following these easy steps.

Step 1: Select the object and go to the Color panel. 

The sample image is currently in CMYK. I will scroll to the different color modes and select Grayscale. When the grayscale mode shows up, you can use the eye dropper icon to select the grayscale ramp.

You can change an object’s color mode by using the color edit option. This method is also easy.

Step 1: Go to the overhead menu and select Edit > Edit Colors.

Step 2: Choose your preferred color mode. When you see the drop-down, scroll and click on a color mode. You can try out the options if you don’t have a particular color mode in mind.


Here are more questions related to changing color modes in Adobe Illustrator.

Why are there different color modes in Adobe Illustrator?

There are color modes in Adobe Illustrator for various design purposes. If you want to print the design, the CMYK color mode is best for print because of the color separation technique.

The RGB color mode is best for the web. The different color modes help designers achieve the best results.

Why is it better to work in RGB color mode instead of CMYK in Illustrator?

It is better to work in RGB color mode if you creating web designs in Adobe Illustrator. The RGB color mode is more flexible than the CMYK color mode.

According to research, RGB mode creates the maximum color combinations, with 16.7 million colors compared to CMYK’s 16,000 possibilities. Despite having more color possibilities, RGB files are usually smaller than CMYK files. (Source: Noun project)

Final Thoughts

RGB, CMYK, HEB, or grayscale. Depending on your desired result, you may need to switch color modes in Adobe Illustrator. Knowing when to use a color mode will help you produce better designs. It is best to keep your desired result in mind before switching color modes. 

Keep this golden rule in mind. CMYK color mode is best for printing, while the RGB color mode is best for web or screen.

Do you have any questions? Let us know in the comment box below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *