Why is this colour making my life hell

So you saw this really cool colour on Pinterest and want us to match it, and we do and it comes back printed and not quite what you expected. What the?

We’re not talking about the “is your black my black” situation reminiscent of the blue-and-yellow dress incident on the interweb all those years ago (or was it blue and grey!?). The colour is objectively different, so what gives?

We’re not going to go into the physics of colour and gamuts here, but the technologies in which the colour is being created are very different on screen than on paper. Screens use RGB (red, green and blue) lights to create the facets of colours, while printing utilises CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and blacK) inks. The result is that RGB colours seem often brighter and more saturated on screen than when printed in CMYK. See this image for comparison.

Not to mention that the colour calibration for different screens are different... and then there’s paper type, texture, status of the printer and humidity levels of the day of the print. It’s a real science (and at times, a blimmin’ headache) to get it right — so it pays to have a consistent relationship with a good commercial printer so they can control the colour output for each job.

There is one way to print specialist colours like say, neon or fluoro - that’s when you buy a fifth colour to add to the print process. Pantone inks range from the normal pastels all the way up to highlighter yellows and metallic tones. However, it can be an expensive offset print process and often only economical for large print runs of over 5000 units.

What to take away from this? Have healthy expectations about colour and how various factors will affect how it renders. And pick a brand colour that will either not deviate too much on web and print, or have a primary and secondary colour to fall back on depending on your platform. Talk to us today if you’ve got questions on colour choices!


Written by Katie Che on 23.10.2019