Color Variations from Screen to Print

Ever wonder why the colors in your design look different when printed?

  Colors typically appear brighter on your screen than they do when printed.

Colors typically appear brighter on your screen than they do when printed.

There are a lot of variables that affect the appearance of color. It’s important to understand that variations will arise from the different models used to create color: 

  • Monitors display color using the RGB color model, meaning they create color by mixing red, green, and blue. All monitors use RGB, but the display typically varies from screen to screen. It’s affected by the device’s graphics card, and also by its backlighting — whether it uses LED, LCD, or plasma.
  • Inkjet printers use the CMYK color model, producing color with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Again, colors often vary from printer to printer due to their settings.

  • Offset presses may use either CMYK or spot colors, which are created by mixing specific proportions of ink. The most popular spot colors are created by Pantone, which mixes 14 base colors. If you’re looking to get an exact color match, use Pantone. (This method can be a little pricey, though, and is not the best option for every job.)

 shades of red

These methods differ not only in the colors used, but in how they emit color. Monitors absorb light, while paper absorbs light. Because of the fundamental differences between monitors and print, if your goal is to achieve a certain color on a printed piece, the best thing you can do is print a sample. Make the necessary changes on your computer, and repeat until you get your desired results.

Related Posts:
What Are Pantone Colors?
Offset vs. Digital Printing