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why do my colours print differently to the colour i see on my screen?


The team here at The Print Group Australia like to help educate our customers and prospects on all things design and print to not only give you an insight into the printing world, but to make sure you are getting the best result on your print job.

We often have clients that have designed artwork that once printed, are surprised as to why the colour of the finished product isn’t what they expected or doesn’t match the colour they were working with on screen. There is a logical explanation to this and today we are going to look further into the world of colour and why what you see on screen is not necessarily the way it will print on paper.

The first thing we want to discuss is the difference between RGB, CMYK and Spot Colours and what they really mean in terms of your artwork design and printing.

RGB – stands for Red, Green, Blue and refers to how colours are viewed on a computer display. RGB color is an additive colour model in which red, green and blue light are added together in a variety of ways to produce a broad range of colours. White is the “additive” combination of all the primary colours. (see the centre of the RGB colour diagram above).
CMYK – stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Keyline (Black). This is the preferred colour option when printing detailed artwork with images and graphics containing more than 4 colours. During printing, each colour is applied to the surface one at a time in a layered fashion using four different print plates. The CMYK model is the opposite of RGB as black is the “subtractive” combination of all the primary printed colours. (see the centre of the CMYK colour diagram above).
Spot Colours are picked using the PMS (Pantone Matching System). Compared to CMYK, spot colour blends inks during the print process and then transfers solid fields of the pre-mixed ink directly onto the page. Spot Colour can only typically be used for print pieces with 1 – 3 colours only. Print pieces using spot colour are bright and vibrant and are a great choice for printing logos, text and simple illustrations.

To read more about RGB, CMYK or Spot read here. 

One of the most common issues designers face when crossing over from web design to print design (and vice-versa) is maintaining consistent colours. When designing for print you need to use CMYK or spot colour, while web design needs to be done in RGB colour. It's important to remember that CMYK printing gives a lot smaller colour range than RGB – so colours that you can see on your monitor might not be achievable in print. To make sure you maintain consistency across print and web, it's best to start with CMYK colours, and convert to RGB when necessary. Read more here regarding graphic design for print and for the web the major differences.

In addition your artwork and colours will view differently from screen to screen. Why? Screen type, computer type, application version, calibration settings, colour profiles and so on will all have an impact on the display colour. If you want to confirm a colour, its best to view a CMYK or PMS colour swatch book, to see how your colour will print.If you have your set colours and your artwork is correct, then a press check is the final step to ensure you are getting the colour you want. The main goal of a press check is to make sure that the colour on the press comes as close as possible to the colours selected on the artwork. Small adjustments can be made on the press to better match your expectations and improve the quality of the job. Read more here regarding what is involved in a press check.

If you have had problems with achieving consistent colours with your logo or brand colours in the past, you definitely need to read further in our blog titled – colour variances in printing

Have questions about your next print project? Call our team today to see how we can help.