Does Microsoft Word Support CMYK Images?

No, but a PDF workaround solves the problem

CMYK color guide
focusstock / Getty Images

Many businesses use Microsoft Word for creating letterheads, reports, forms, newsletters, and other typical business materials. The documents print to a desktop printer just fine, regardless of the color images in the file.

The problem with using Word for documents with color images occurs when the user wants to take that electronic file to a commercial printer for offset printing. The file is printed in a combination of four ink colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, known as CMYK in the world of commercial printing. Color images are printed in the four-color process inks, which are loaded onto the printing press. The print provider must separate the color images in the document into only CMYK before printing it.

Microsoft Word does not support CMYK images directly in its files. Word uses the RGB color format common in computer monitors and desktop printers, but there is a workaround to this problem.

The CMYK Workaround

The lack of CMYK support in Word is one of the reasons why you shouldn't use it to create documents for color printing on an offset printing press. If it is too late or you didn't have another option, and you've spent long days or nights slaving over your electronic file, there is one possible way to save it; convert it to a PDF.

Ask whether your commercial printer has Adobe Acrobat or a proprietary software program that can convert an RGB Word PDF to the CMYK format necessary for commercial printing. PDFs are widely used in the commercial printing industry, and most printing companies do this routinely.

Even if the answer is yes, there may still be problems with the document's colors, but it's a big step in the right direction, and the printer may be able to make any needed adjustments.

How to Make a PDF in Microsoft Word

  1. Set up your Word file as you want it to appear when it is printed, complete with color images. As you work, save it as usual in the standard Word format by selecting File > Save on the menu bar. This step is important because It is easier to make last-minute revisions in your Word file than with a PDF.

    Microsoft Word showing a document with color images
  2. To make the PDF, select File on the Word menu bar and choose Save As. Enter the name and location where you want the PDF to save and select PDF in the File Format menu.

    Save As view of a Microsoft Word document
  3. Send the PDF to the commercial printing company and maintain the Word file for future use or revisions.


If you want to know which programs you should use to create documents for offset printing, determine the best desktop publishing software for your needs. Even Microsoft recommends using Publisher over Word for material destined to be commercially printed. Recent releases of Publisher have improved commercial printing options and include color models such as Pantone spot colors and CMYK.

Was this page helpful?