Why don’t printed colours match what I see on the monitor?

Printers just can’t print colours the way they look on a monitor, period. An image may look great on the monitor but doesn’t print true to the screen. These colours will never be a perfect match because the image on the screen and the image from the printer use two different types of light sources. The screen pixels are emitted light and a printer can’t print light. It uses dyes and pigments to replicate the colours.

A computer monitor is composed of pixels and each pixel displays over 16 million colors. The actual number is 16,77,7216 which is 2 to the 24th power. These colors are in the RGB gamut which is composed of all the colors in light.

A printer only reproduces a few thousand colours due to the principle of absorption and reflection. The pigments and dyes absorb the light colours that aren’t used and reflect the CMYK combination that closely approximates the actual colour. In all cases, the printed result is a bit darker than the screen image.

What is a Colour gamut?

A colour gamut defines a more specific range of colours from the range of colours identifiable by the human eye (i.e., the visible spectrum). While colour imaging devices include a wide range of devices, such as digital cameras, scanners, monitors, and printers, since the range of colours they can reproduce varies, the colour gamut is established to make these differences clear and to reconcile the colours that can be used in common between devices.

Displaying RGB as CMYK: Your Monitor is a Variable
Computer monitors typically have larger colour gamuts than printing devices, especially in deep blues and blacks. This means the printed result will often be less dramatic than the original RGB image viewed on screen. To see in advance how an RGB image will look when printed in CMYK, use the Proof Colours viewing option in Adobe Creative Suite applications. Colours outside the printable gamut will display with less saturation, similar to how they will print on press. Proof accuracy depends on the quality of your monitor profile as well as your default colour working space and default rendering intent.

Here are a few tips to get closer results and better understand limitations…

1. Digitally created art always appears brighter and more saturated on a backlit screen compared to in print. We suggest turning your brightness down to 30% to 40% for a more realistic effect. Never have your brightness at 100%.
2. There is no technical way of matching print output to the colour profile of the screen you are viewing the original design on.
3. For best results, designs/art should be created in, and saved as AdobeRGB colour space, do not use CMYK colour space as it will appear more muted and have subtle shifts in colour.

4. Do not use colours outside of the gamut warning (Photoshop can show you this).
5. Never convert your images to CYMK, this is only for offset printing, not digital.
6. Numbers don’t lie. Technically we can print many colours in Adobe RGB colour space. When making a colour on your computer, use actual reproducible colours from your custom colour palette.
7. No two monitors are alike, there is no standardized colour correction/calibration systems installed or managed on personal computers.
8. We calibrate and manage all our printers to industry (and higher) standards.
Typically, print proofs can only really be matched to a physical piece of art (such as canvas or watercolour painting), providing we have photographed/scanned the original and have had control over lighting and colour space settings.

Digital art can be adjusted to your liking, after seeing a proof. However we are unable to guarantee it will match what you are viewing on screen due to technical limitations mentioned above.
We appreciate this can be a lot to learn when printing your work for the first time.

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