They are, or are they?
Well, the official line is that Adobe are serious, we
still can't directly import CMYK files into Lightroom. However, there
is a backdoor way. Actually, the backdoor existed in Lightroom 1.x,
but it was difficult to to implement, had a tendency to break easily, and wasn't
Windows friendly. I am not even sure that it was widely known about; I
certainly don't recall anyone discussing it. So, how
does the backdoor work in Lightroom 2.0 and what are the limitations?
I will address the limitations later, for now we will
look at the how. But first, have you've read the story of the
Trojan Horse? No, then humour me and do so now.
Yes, the secret to getting your CMYK files into
Lightroom is to use a Trojan Horse or more accurately an RGB
file with the same filename and extension as the original. The
following illustrated tutorial explains the approach that I use. It
makes use of Adobe Photoshop and the Bridge to convert a
the file from CMYK mode to RGB, and finishes off by using a
context menu command in Lightroom's new Volume Browser. While
not ideal it's still better than nothing.
8th June 2010 with the
Introduction of Lightroom 3, Adobe now provide the directly import CMYK
Step 1 - Creating the RGB files
If you have been using Adobe Photoshop and the Bridge
then this step should be fairly easy to follow. In so far as it makes use of Russell
Brown) Image Processor to convert your CMYK files to RGB
TIFFs it also requires minimal user input. Since Image Processor is
installed along with Photoshop and Bridge, there's no need to go hunting it down. That said,
Russell's site is always worth checking out.
Tip: if you prefer to save your CMYK files as
PSD or JPEG, then feel free to adopt the same file type for the RGB
versions. The important thing to remember is that the file type for the
Trojan files should be the same as the original CMYK files. I also
recommend that you have the appropriate ICC profile embedded into your
To keep the tutorial as short and simple as possible I
have assumed that you already know how to create simple Photoshop
Actions. So, let's begin...
OK, so now we know a little about the new Volume Browser it's
time to put it to use. We must first import the RGB Trojan files. This
should be easy enough, especially since the process has changed little
since Lightroom 1.4.
Supported files can imported via the File menu command,
Import Photos From Disk... (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+I) or by pressing
the Import button located at the bottom of the left panel
The Import Photos or Lightroom Catalog dialog
(figure 6) should open.
Navigate to the subfolder containing the RGB Trojan
files. This is the subfolder that Image Processor saved the converted
files to earlier (example shows Trojans>TIFF).
Click Choose button.
Figure 6 - from Trojan folder select TIFF subfolder
Ensure that the File Handling options in the Import
Photos panel are set so that the originals are not moved or renamed on
It's probably best that you don't apply any Develop
Settings to the files on import, but adding your standard Metadata is
advisable. It might also be useful to add a keyword to indicate that
the file is CMYK.
Click the Import button.
Figure 7 - Lightroom Import Photos dialog
Figure 8 - Trojan files successfully
imported into Lightroom catalog
Figure 8 above shows that the Trojan TIFF files have
been imported onto my Desktop, although the actual
location doesn't really matter. Again, do not to edit the files, change
their names, etc.
So, now we have finally arrived, your Trojan Horse is
inside the city of Troy (the Lightroom Catalog), but don't begin the
celebrations just yet. Next step is to import the actual CYMK files. Hmm, but
we can't I hear you say. Remember the new folder panel context menu
command I mentioned earlier?
Right mouse button click the folder containing the
Trojan files and choose Update Folder Location...
The Select New Location dialog will open (figure
Navigate to the folder containing your CMYK files
(remember to select the folder, not the files).
Click Choose button.
Figure 9 - Updating the Folder Location
Figure 10 - Select New Location dialog
Lightroom will take a few moments to churn through the files
updating the location links. Assuming that you didn't make any mistakes
along the way, change files names or worse, the CMYK files should now
be safe inside your Lightroom catalog. Figure 11 below shows how my
Folder panel looks after the CMYK files have been imported. At this
point you should run the the Render 1:1 Preview command found
under the Library>Previews menu in the Library module. Lightroom
will use the built in Adobe Color Engine (ACE) to create the
full-size RGB previews used within the Library module. The key
point here is that just like Photoshop, Lightroom can only display RGB previews, the
accuracy of which is dependent upon the correct CMYK profile being
embedded with the original file. If the ICC profile is not embedded into
the original CMYK file Lightroom will assume Adobe SWOP V2.0.
Figure 11 - Lightroom Library modules displaying
previews for CMYK files
You may be asking - are these for real CMYK files?
Yep, check for yourself - select one and choose Edit
in Photoshop (Cmd/Ctrl+E) then choose Edit Original.
Figure 12 - Edit in Photoshop dialog
The original CMYK will open into Photoshop.
Furthermore, you can
make adjustments to the original CMYK file in Photoshop, apply layers,
crop, etc then save the edited CMYK file back into Lightroom (Yes, you read
right). It is even possible to export the Photoshop edited CMYK
file from Lightroom, but you must set the Format (file type) to
Original (see figure 13 below).
Figure 13 - Exporting edited files as CMYK
Are you happy?
Are you celebrating?
Now, for the next trick. Notice that the Edit in Photoshop
dialog in Figure 12 above allowed the selection of a copy or even a
copy with Lightroom adjustments? You did, then try switching to the Develop module.
Figure 14 - CMYK file displayed in Develop module
There you go, your CMYK file is available for editing
in the Develop module (Figure 14), just like it would be if it was an RGB
file. Lightroom has again used ACE to render the RGB preview from the
CMYK file. Also, note that all of the Lightroom develop adjustment controls are active.
This means that you can edit the file as if the original had been RGB. If you apply an adjustment using the Develop
module controls then choose Edit in Photoshop Copy with
Lightroom Adjustments an RGB copy TIFF/PSD is created, which
is then opened into Photoshop. Any further adjustments in Photoshop
will be applied to this RGB copy, thus leaving the CMYK original
As suggested by my opening remarks, a lot of folk have
expressed a strong desire to have CMYK support within Lightroom, some
have also been extremely vocal in their criticism of Adobe for not
including it. To date, both groups have stated that the primary reason is
to allow them to manage their CMYK assets within Lightroom, which is
probably not an unreasonable request. Obviously, I don't know why CMYK
support has not been included in Lightroom 2.0, but this tutorial
demonstrates that some of the infrastructure required to facilitate
the management of your CMYK files is already present. It also shows that develop adjustments
of these files is supported. Anything else? Yes...
Remember Rule 5 - Enjoy!