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Crown Labels Blog

Why Do Printed Colours Appear Differently to What I See on Screen?

At Crown Labels we understand colours can be a key part of your brand and your products. A 'fiery red pepper chilli sauce' is more likely to appeal to a consumer if the colour of the packaging is a vibrant pepper red as appose to a dull brown. It can therefore be an incredibly frustrating experience for a product designer if a colour chosen on screen appears significantly different to what has been printed by a supplier or by your own printer.

Here we try to shed some light (excuse the pun!) on some of the main reasons why this colour shift may have occurred and how you can reduce the impact in the future. It is also key to stress that colour is all about perception and all ink will appear different as lighting changes. Colours can also appear different when surrounded by dark or light colours so always bear this in mind - see this great article from the Independent on optical illusions if you don't believe us! - article.

A key difference between what you see printed and what you see on screen is the colour space. The way colours are displayed on a computer monitor is by emitting light through combinations of red, green and blue LEDs (RGB). However, in digital print (eg. a desktop printer or commercial digital press) we generally see colours through light passing through dots of cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink (CMYK). These four colours create a colour spectrum which is much smaller than that of RGB so there will be some colours for which a close match isn't possible. (When you buy ink cartridges for an inkjet desktop printer you will generally buy them in packs of four which are the aforementioned colours.)

The default colour space for some design programs such as Photoshop is RGB so we would always recommend changing this to CMYK when designing for print. This will help you get a closer match in print to what you see on screen and also limit the colour space. Even if your monitor has been calibrated it is likely that a colour will still appear slightly different in print due to various technological and environmental factors associated with printing digitally in CMYK.

Some digital presses (including our own Epson Surepress) will have additional ink colours such as orange and green to provide a much larger colour gamut than the CMYK colour space. This helps us to achieve a closer match to a larger proportion of Pantone colours. Pantone colours are a standardised colour matching system in the printing industry and we would always recommend specifying these if you are familiar with their charts. This will help us understand exactly the colour you are trying to achieve and help us get a close a match as possible.

For those of you that aren't familiar with Pantone colours and are concerned about specific colours in printing, we can always supply test print proofs of your artwork for digital work prior to printing.

To find out further information on CMYK vs RGB see this great article or alternatively to understand more on our digital printing or colour matching capabilities just send us an enquiry on 01709 363888/!

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