Why Does InDesign Change Your Colors?

InDesign is a useful program for formatting documents and printable projects, but sometimes files don’t translate the way you want them to. Many InDesign users run into an issue where the colors in the InDesign program sometimes appear duller than colors in the original document. 

Changes in document color in InDesign are usually the result of changes in the Color Management menu of the program. Color changes can also result from displaying CMYK colors meant to print on a computer monitor with RGB settings. Colors can appear brighter by adjusting the RGB Color Mode.

It can be frustrating if InDesign displays a different color palette than you know you had in your imported file. However, there are a few solutions you can try that may help you get a better picture of what colors will print out in your final documents. Read on to learn more about color changes in InDesign and how you can prevent them. 

Color Conversion Issues in InDesign

When you use InDesign, you may run into a problem where the colors in your original file are not showing up correctly when you preview the same file in InDesign. This can result in colors that look dull and faded. 

This issue can occur with many different colors, but it is seen most prominently in blue tones. So what causes color conversion problems in InDesign files? 

Why Are Colors Faded in Indesign? 

Faded colors in InDesign files are usually the result of incorrect settings in either the Color Management or Transparency blend settings. Colors also may not display correctly if they are CMYK colors (colors in a file that are designed for printed media) versus RGB colors (colors in a file that are designed for on-screen digital viewing). 

If an image file is converted to CMYK before being exported, this can cause the image to look dull. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to keep your Adobe workflow in RGB color settings, but this isn’t always possible. Here are a few cases where you might need to use CMYK images in your file: 

  • You need to match CMYK images in a swatch selection
  • You need to work on grayscale images

There’s also a bug in 2019 and 2020 versions of InDesign where the Color Management settings are automatically set to off as the default setting. This can lead to color conversion issues if you’re not aware the option isn’t set up. Luckily, there are a few different methods you can use to try and solve this technical issue. 

Fixing InDesign Color Conversion Issues

If the colors in your InDesign files look duller than expected, there are several things you can try that might resolve the problem. Here are some potential solutions: 

  • Adjust Color Management settings. From the main menu, select Edit and then select Color Settings. This should bring up the Color Settings dialog box. Once you check the Color Settings box, this should bring up several options for you to correct the color management in your files. (Source: PeachPit)
  • Adjust Transparency Blend settings. From the main interface, select the Edit menu and then select Transparency Blend Space. This should give you two pop-up submenu options: Document CMYK and Document RGB. Switching the Transparency Blend setting from Document CMYK to Document RGB can fix your colors. (Source: PrintingForLess)
  • Create a new page. If you’ve tried adjusting the color management and transparency settings on your InDesign setup and it’s not working, another workaround is to create a new page and copy the contents of the original page onto the new page before deleting the original. This can sometimes fix color conversion issues. (Source: InDesign User Voice)

These methods may or may not work depending on why your colors aren’t displaying correctly in your InDesign file. However, they’ll at least give you a jumping-off point for troubleshooting the problem. 

Should InDesign Users Stick to RGB Color Settings? 

If you research color conversion problems with InDesign, a community debate that frequently comes up is whether or not CMYK images should be used at all. 

Many users believe that RGB images should be the preferred file type for importing into InDesign. Not only does this make the end product more versatile (the file will display properly either digitally or in print) it prevents many of the conversion issues that lead to a dull or incorrect color conversion in the program. (Source: New Breed Plus)

InDesign Color Issues Can Usually Be Fixed

Problems with InDesign changing your colors can often be resolved by either adjusting your settings or changing the type of images you’re trying to import into the program. Knowing the difference between RGB and CMYK color settings can make a big difference when it comes to getting the color display you want in your documents.