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Why Are My Design’s Colors Different When Printed?

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In this week’s question time video I talk about designing for print and how your colour selections may impact how your design is reproduced. I also share some tips on how to check the ink coverage in your design before sending it off to print.

This week’s questions

Maria
I designed a booklet for a musician (I don’t have a lot of experience in print design) and the colors were totally different once the booklet was printed. So I wanted to ask you if you can give me some advice to make the screen colors match the print colors.

Chris Myatt
I’ve been doing some poster designs for various club nights around Liverpool. However, the three that I’ve done over the past 2 weeks have looked fine on my Mac but when they have gone to print they’ve lacked quality. I managed to sort these posters out but I don’t want this happening again due to it looking bad on me. Any tips or thoughts?

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26 Comments

  1. Andreas says:

    Hi Chris! Thanks for the video.
    A tip for beginners working with graphic design in InDesign: I would recommend to turn on the “Separations Preview” window found in the “Window > Output” menu. It will show the complete ink coverage of your design and highlight areas in your design that increases the ink limit.
    Have a nice day!

  2. Simon says:

    Hi Chris. Thanks for the video tut. As a web designer it can often be pretty confusing when trying to cover both RGB and CMYK. Will help when starting to do more print work. Cheers.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I want to let you know that I posted a link to your blog in CBB Digital Scrapbooking Freebies, under the Page 1 post on Oct. 05, 2012. Thanks again.

  4. To help you get the colours you are expecting in your prints, it is essential to have a properly calibrated monitor. If the printer is using an inkjet or laser printer instead of traditional printing you can ask them for the ICC profile for their particular printer and paper combination. Adobe applications will let you preview your work with the ICC profile to approximate how it will look when printed. Perhaps basic colour management would be an idea for a future tutorial?

  5. SpoonZ says:

    Get spot colours or at least a Pantone number from a client whenever possible… I always hate it when a client asked for a soft mauve, a vivid green or a sky blue pink. Whip out some swatches and get them to pinpoint exactly what they mean…. The language of colour is different for everyone and it makes me extremely blue :)

  6. Colour can be a minefield although I find most clients are not too fussy. I use a Pantone process and spot book so you can specify colours as spot or process. Picking colours on screen unless you are designing for web will only give you a very rough guide!

  7. As a graphic designer with more than 10 years of print design experience, I find that color printing and the quality of prints depends on model and type of printing machine. I would suggest if you have a project for print and already hired a printing company, to consult them on this and gather some already printed materials. That way you could see, where the printing machine has a flaw. By doing so your design work will out stand in quality only because you acknowledged the flaw and designed a piece which doesn’t have those kind of colors or elements.

  8. Nice vid, my day job involves working in a reprographic flexo print studio and I have to agree with Chris with ink coverage (subtractive btw) really needs to be a consideration when designing. The colour range or gamut really is very limited compared to RGB but the use of special colours like Pantone can really add a signature feature to a design. Glad you pointed out ‘set off’ with ink’s not being cured enough in a stack…. These points are often not realised when a designer starts a project.

  9. Lily says:

    Especially for print, calibrating your monitor (with a device rather than doing it by eye using the color management on your mac) is definitely an essential. Didn’t realize the importance of color calibration until my prints came out entirely wrong :(

  10. nice question! thank for asking this in your post…
    Be careful about using photographs for backgrounds. If you put text (any color) on top it can be very hard to read. So the secret is to lighten the photograph a lot–more than you may think is necessary. Use a photo editing program like Paint Shop Pro or Adobe PhotoDeluxe..

  11. Be careful about using photographs for backgrounds. If you put text (any color) on top it can be very hard to read. So the secret is to lighten the photograph a lot–more than you may think is necessary. Use a photo editing program like Paint Shop Pro or Adobe PhotoDeluxe.

  12. Hey chris, great video. It was really useful.
    Actually we mentioned about printed color mode a few post ago.

  13. John says:

    Great stuff as usual! One thing you touched on was how important it is to actually talk to your printer, before and during the job. These guys are usually very good at color manipulation and are a great resource if things don’t turn out the way you wanted.
    And following on from that be very wary about using a totally online printing service because you are unlikely to be able to find anyone with ink on their fingers to talk to!

  14. Really useful! I’ve made a few mistakes noted here, when it comes to print. Thankfully no one’s ever noticed but me…

  15. francesco says:

    Great article ! Thank you

  16. Tin says:

    Nice vid, my day job involves working in a reprographic flexo print studio and I have to agree with Chris with ink coverage (subtractive btw) really needs to be a consideration when designing. The colour range or gamut really is very limited compared to RGB but the use of special colours like Pantone can really add a signature feature to a design. Glad you pointed out ‘set off’ with ink’s not being cured enough in a stack…. These points are often not realised when a designer starts a project.

  17. PR Agency says:

    Great video, I think it’s also important to stick to PMS colours (Pantone Matching System) when choosing Packaging design.

  18. If in doubt, always opt for a contract proof from the printer. It’s much cheaper and quicker to get a proof than a re-print!

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