Color reproduction from screen to print is a lot more complicated than you might think. Here’s why what you see isn’t always what you get.
It’s happened to the best of us: you slave over the draft of a graphics-heavy document for work, putting in long hours ensuring that you get every detail right before your big presentation next week in front of the executive board.
You’ve crossed every t, dotted every i, and checked and re-checked every aspect of your work to ensure it’s correct and accurate. Then, after you have a dozen copies professionally printed on the most expensive paper you can afford, it comes back… and the color is all wrong. That shade of red is too pink, that shade of blue is too purple — it’s an unmitigated disaster. How could this have happened??
Congratulations: you’ve just learned one of the hardest lessons of the print industry. Reproducing color accurately as it’s displayed on a computer screen and transferring it to a printed page can be one of the most difficult tasks for any designer — especially when color accuracy is important.
But why is color reproduction so difficult? What causes this problem? Furthermore, is there even a way to fix the problem, or is there simply no way around it? Before you lose hope, don’t worry: lucky for you, we’ve got all the answers you need.
Why Is Accurate Color Reproduction Such A Challenge?
The main problem, when it comes to seeing one color in an image on a computer screen and then getting another color when printing out that image, is because of the different ways colors are produced through these two objects.
Computer monitors use an additive color system to create images. In this context, this means that monitors use millions of red, green, and blue-colored pixels in different combinations to create colors. Adding red and green makes yellow, adding blue and yellow makes cyan, and adding red and blue makes magenta — hence “additive” color.
Although a monitor may be able to display ‘true color’ (16,000,000 colors), millions of these colors are outside of the spectrum available to printers.Worqx.com
What works on a computer screen doesn’t work on the printed page. Adding one color to another doesn’t produce new colors on paper — it just creates a messy smudge. That’s why printing presses rely on a subtractive method that relies on the ability of paper or other substrates to absorb the ink used to print. Instead of red, green, and blue to mix new colors, a typical printer begins with printing cyan, magenta, and yellow inks, subtracting the amount of ink needed to have it appear as red, green, or blue on a piece of paper based on how much light is reflected and absorbed — hence “subtractive” color. There’s a lot more science involved in color reproduction than just that, but that is the basic idea.
So Isn’t It Just a Reverse Process? What’s the Big Deal?
You might be asking yourself why this is such a problem when it comes to color reproduction. Whether 1+2 = 3 or 3 – 2 = 1, it’s still the same components in the end, right? Well, yes and no. Simply reversing the process to achieve the specific color you want isn’t the only issue with accurate color reproduction from screen to paper.
The other issue we face is the fact that the mere act of placing ink on paper is going to produce wildly different results based on the type of paper you’re using and how much of that ink that paper absorbs.
The more ink a piece of paper absorbs, the more the appearance of that ink’s color will change — it’s a simple fact. Choosing paper with a glossy coating can help minimize this absorption, but that’s not always feasible or appropriate.
Talented graphic designers with experience in understanding how one color looks on a computer versus how that color reproduces on paper can also alter hue and saturation during the printing process to result in a better match, but it’s as much an art as it is a science — and that means you’re going to need professional help when it counts.
Turn to Las Vegas Color Graphics for the Most Experienced Graphic Design and Color Reproduction Help
Here at Las Vegas Color Graphics, we know the challenges posed by accurate color reproduction inside and out. As Las Vegas’ premier hometown print shop for 40 years, we’ve been providing professional-level color correcting for decades. Our graphic designers are some of the best in the business, and they’ll work with you every step of the way to ensure what you see on your computer screen is what you get when our printing press stops.
If you’re looking for the best, most closely matched color reproduction capabilities anywhere, you can rely on us. Contact us today and see how we can make your graphic design visions and color reproduction a reality!