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Understanding Colour in Print and on Screen

There is no doubt there are colour differences between what is on a digital screen and what gets printed off onto paper. But why does this phenomenon occur?

Understanding Colour in Print and on Screen


Colours will never match perfectly from one format to the other because printable colour does not have the same range of colour a light sourced system has (i.e. computer screens). On digital layouts like computer monitors, colours are mixed using red, blue and green light to create most of the colours in the visible spectrum. When all three colours are mixed at their highest intensity, white is achieved.

When coloured images are printed off with offset and digital printing, the basic colour palate is different. Most printable colours are created by mixing Yellow, Cyan, Magenta and Black using a method called subtractive colour mixing. It is called subtractive colour mixing because the ink absorbs all the visible light except for the colour it is trying to display on the paper.

Since blank paper technically has colour, the paper one uses to print on can influence changes in the colour from what is seen on a digital screen and the final product. This is due to the colour of light being reflected from the paper and varies depending on whether one uses ivory coloured paper or a different form of an off-white.


Computer Monitor Calibration

Another way colour can change from digital to printed format is through variations of computer monitor calibration. Similar to walking into an electronics store and noticing the differences in colour on the televisions on display (all showing the same image), computer monitors all show differences in colour. This is because computer monitors are all calibrated differently.


Method of Printing

Colour also will vary depending on the method of printing used. If one were to print the same image from an inkjet printer, an offset press, and a digital press, one would notice the colours vary. One applies liquid ink directly to the paper, one uses powdered toner and heat, and another creates plates of ink coloured layers. Even though they all use the same CMYK colour mixing format, the method of production can cause the colours to appear significantly different.


Pantone Matching System

Based on these issues, creating a consistency between what is on a digital screen and what is printed off can be a troublesome task. However, certain colour systems can be put in place to help achieve the most consistent product. The most popular one used by designers is the Pantone Matching System. Colours are matched with a colour on the Pantone Matching system to give it the best consistency when it is printed off.

Regardless of these variations, Ottawa Printing can make your colours pop with high-quality printing delivered fast using the latest in colour printing technology. Ottawa Print’s attention to detail and passionate care is what helps give you the most consistent and alluring product possible.

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