Bad PDF color rendering on iPad

Just a quick note today (since I haven’t written anything in months) about PDFs on the iPad. As part of my job, I get to work with some really awesome designers. In the last two apps we have occasionally noticed some issues with how colors appear when viewing a PDF on the iPad. This has only been an issue with a handful of PDF’s but if you have a product brochure that looks great in print we want to it look amazing on the screen as well.

In our particular case, we had a lot of purple tones that were appearing blue and pink tones that looked purple. The saturation also appeared more intense and while the images and text were crisp, the colors just looked slightly (or on some more severe occasions) completely off. If you have experienced this, apparently the iPad does not do a great job of rendering PDF’s designed and saved as CMYK.

Various attempts to fix it

I discovered several differing opinions on both the cause and resolution as I scoured the net. One suggestion was to open the pdf in Preview and re-export with the Quartz option to reduce file size. I tried that and it did not work. I also attempted creating custom filters in Apple’s ColorSync Utility. I still am guessing there is a way to make that work but my attempts failed.

Something that worked for me

Finally, I found a posting on a discussion board suggesting converting it to sRGB with Adobe Acrobat Pro. That fixed the problem! For my version of Acrobat, the option was found under View->Tools->Print Production. This brought up a side menu. The option that worked was under Preflight->Convert to sRGB. Double click that and save the corrected pdf.

As always, there are a lot of great ideas strung around discussion boards but sometimes you have to dig a bit to find something that works. Hope this helps someone get to a solution faster.

4 thoughts on “Bad PDF color rendering on iPad”

  1. Thank you so much! I found your article when I thought that just Mac owners can resolve the problem.

  2. Your best bet is to download acrobat reader for iOS and view PDFs. I know it’s another app to download and another step in opening from email but it guarantees that one pdf maintains accurate colors regardless of device.

    The sRGB converted version produces inaccurate & desaturated colors when viewed on desktop, and slightly darker than original colors in iOS.

    Thank you for this example, it was a great starting point for resolving pdf color issues.

  3. Hi Jeremy:

    For months I have been looking how to fix the color of PDFs displayed on an iPad.
    I found your article simple and easy to understand. I followed your instructions, and voila… It worked. Thanks a bunch.

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