One of the things I tell my clients is that print colors (CMYK) and screen colors (RGB) can look completely different. It’s a hard thing to explain, especially when complicated by the fact that colors can also look different from computer screen to computer screen, depending on their calibration or from device to device (a computer to a mobile phone, for example). It’s an important fact and one that can sometimes frustrate both my clients and me.
Screen colors are RGB (red, green, blue) which has a wider color range and can give more vibrant colors than the print colors CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). Certain RGB colors cannot be reproduced in CMYK. There are ways to counter this, at least partially, but exact matches are hard to achieve. One way to minimize the difference between print colors and screen colors is by using online color conversion charts but some colors just don’t convert satisfactorily.
Take the example of the business card in the photo. When a job arrives and I’ve quality checked it, I will sometimes text a photo of the item to my client letting the client know I’m ready to deliver to them. That’s what I was attempting to do with this business card. What I found was that the actual color of the printed card (teal) came out turquoise when snapping a photo. I tried different lighting and positioning of the card but the colors were still distorted.
In order to keep colors consistent in the print process or to achieve colors that need more vibrancy, we can use a Pantone color match. Not all printers offer color matching and printers that do charge a premium. By using color matching, you’re assured of consistent color in print and the strong, vibrant colors found in RGB color space.
One final note about printed colors: print colors, even those with the same CMYK values, can look different depending on the printer and the substrate used. Cotton paper is highly absorptive so the colors will look different than a coated paper, sign or banner. Machine calibration can also be a factor. As mentioned above, RGB users aren’t immune to color discrepancies as the gamut of screen colors is dependent on many factors including screen calibration and device. When in doubt, ask your designer the best way to achieve the look you want for your business.