Color-managing documents

Color-managing documents for online viewing

Color management for online viewing is very different from color management for printed media. With printed media, you have far more control over the appearance of the final document. With online media, your document will appear on a wide range of possibly uncalibrated monitors and video display systems, significantly limiting your control over color consistency.

When you color-manage documents that are viewed exclusively on the web, Adobe recommends that you use the sRGB color space. sRGB is the default working space for most Adobe color settings, but you can verify that sRGB is selected in the Color Management preferences. With the working space set to sRGB, any RGB graphics you create will use sRGB as the color space.

When you export PDFs, you can choose to embed profiles. PDFs with embedded profiles reproduce color consistently under a properly configured color management system. Keep in mind that embedding color profiles increases the size of PDFs. RGB profiles are usually small (around 3 KB); however, CMYK profiles can range from 0.5 to 2 MB.

Proofing colors

In a traditional publishing workflow, you print a hard proof of your document to preview how its colors look when reproduced on a specific output device. In a color-managed workflow, you can use the precision of color profiles to soft-proof your document directly on the monitor. You can display an onscreen preview of how your document’s colors look when reproduced on a particular output device.

Keep in mind that the reliability of the soft proof depends upon the quality of your monitor, the profiles of your monitor and output devices, and the ambient lighting conditions of your work environment.


A soft proof alone doesn’t let you preview how overprinting looks when printed on an offset press. If you work with documents that contain overprinting, turn on Overprint Preview to accurately preview overprints in a soft proof.

Using a soft proof to preview the final output

Using a soft proof to preview the final output of a document on your monitor

A. Document is created in its working color space. B. Document’s color values are translated to color space of chosen proof profile (usually the output device’s profile). C. Monitor displays proof profile’s interpretation of document’s color values. 

Soft-proof colors (Acrobat Pro)

  • Choose Tools > Print Production. The Print Production tools are displayed in the right-hand pane.

  • In the right-pane, click Output Preview.

  • Choose the color profile of a specific output device from the Simulation Profile menu.

  • Choose any additional soft-proof options:

    Simulate Black Ink

    Simulates the dark gray you really get instead of a solid black on many printers, according to the proof profile. Not all profiles support this option.

    Simulate Paper Color

    Simulates the dingy white of real paper, according to the proof profile. Not all profiles support this option.

Color-managing PDFs for printing (Acrobat Pro)

When you create Adobe PDFs for commercial printing, you can specify how color information is represented. The easiest way to do this is using a PDF/X standard. For more information about PDF/X and how to create PDFs, search Help.

In general, you have the following choices for handling colors when creating PDFs:

  • (PDF/X‑3) Does not convert colors. Use this method when creating a document that is printed or displayed on various or unknown devices. When you select a PDF/X‑3 standard, color profiles are automatically embedded in the PDF.
  • (PDF/X‑1a) Converts all colors to the destination CMYK color space. Use this method if you want to create a press-ready file that does not require any further color conversions. When you select a PDF/X‑1a standard, no profiles are embedded in the PDF.


All spot color information is preserved during color conversion; only the process color equivalents convert to the designated color space.