How to prevent colour variation between your design and the printed job.

The use of colour in contemporary marketing communications is easy and cheap thanks to modern printing technology, but there can be challenges in reproducing the colour you see on your monitor in the printed job.

The colour difference between what a client thought they had designed and the final reproduction is one of the most common challenges faced by both designers and printers. The reason for the variation is rarely due to either party actually doing anything wrong, but rather a range of variables that can all influence colour reproduction.

Computer monitors

Computer monitors are one of the most common reasons why the designed image can look very different to the printed reproduction. Unless a monitor is calibrated for print production, colours can be viewed very differently from one monitor to the next.

Even the difference between the type and brand of monitors can lead to enormous variation in how a colour appears on screen. For example, a colour that looks dark on a monitor may actually print much lighter and brighter, or conversely, darker and more saturated.  

Desktop Printers

The printing technology used in desktop printers is very different than the technology used in commercial printing processes. Desktop printers are also generally not calibrated to any colour standard.

Printing a proof on a desktop printer can only ever be used as a guide to how the finished job will look when it is printed commercially.

RGB versus CMYK

When it comes to reproducing colour photographs or special colours and effects, most computer users typically use RGB to scan, select and save images and colour.

While this is fine for home use, printing technology requires images to be saved as a CMYK image, because this is how the colours are separated for printing.

A colour or image that was created as RGB will not necessarily look the same when it is separated into CMYK. To avoid this problem, always select colours and scan images as CMYK during the design process.

Choice of paper stock

The choice of paper stock can have a significant impact on how colours appear on a printed sheet of paper.

Uncoated paper is much more absorbent that coated paper, and tends to make colours appear lighter and even slightly washed out compared to the strong solid colour that a designer sees on their monitor.

Conversely, glossy coated stocks can sometimes make dark solid colours appear even more saturated than a designer anticipated.

Minimising the risk of colour variation

To help minimise the risk of colour variation, talk to us about your artwork if you think there is part of the design that could be a problem.

We can also provide you with a digital proof, which will give you a close representation of how your printed job will look.

If you are unsure about any of the design processes, and would like some professional help, we have a graphic designer who can design your printed job for you, or modify your job ready for printing from your original file.

For more information, please contact Janet on 8278 2899, or email