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Why does the color on my printer not match the color on my screen?

Jul 28, 2014 10:47:54 AM / by

"Why does the color on my printer not match the color on my screen?"color-mgt.jpg

I hear this question at least once a year. It's usually from a new designer or someone tasked with designing something for print. So let me explain...

First we need a quick lesson in color systems. Colors generated by light are part of one color system. The tangible colors which are on the surface of objects or on the printed page are another color system.The first is a system called RGB (Red, Green, Blue). The color we see comes from a mixture of Red, Green and Blue light. The RGB system is used in all screens.  The second, is tangible where light is bounced off an object back to our eyes. This systems uses Red, Yellow and Blue. (think mixing paint)  The CMYK system is used to mimic this the RYB system in printers and office equipment.

You can calibrate your screen and printer to get close to each other, but the simple fact remains, they will never match perfectly. Here are some tips to get the color you want on your office equipment. 

1) Calibrate your equipment.

Have a service technician ensure that your office equipment is calibrated. If nothing more, this will give you a starting point for how the machine is printing.

2) Print Swatchesswatches.jpg

Whatever software you are using, create sample squares of one color varying the levels of color you are using on one page. Print the file. Then use the values of that swatch that best matches the color you want.

3) Use Pantone Colors when you can

Most software and printers use the Pantone Color chart as a baseline for printing. If you specify a color in your design, the printer will have a better idea of what color you are trying to print.

Topics: color management, color matching, copiers, printing, Printing and Publishing, printing issues, Tips and Resources

Michael Brandt

Written by Michael Brandt

I’m Michael Brandt and I write about a number of topics including events, activities and marketing. I also share ideas and tips. @mikebrandt13

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