The colours that you see on-screen and the colours that you see in print don’t always match. But how does this happen? Understanding how colours change from screen to print will help you to create print-ready designs to be proud of.

Why do colours appear different on-screen compared to print?


When it comes to colour there are two different colour spectrums commonly referred to in print. These two spectrums are RGB and CMYK.

The colours that you see on your screen are within the RGB spectrum. RGB colours tend to be brighter, warmer, and more diverse in the colour tones that can be produced. On the other hand, the colours used in print are within the CMYK spectrum. CMYK colours tend to be more muted in appearance and cannot produce as wide a variety of tones compared to RGB.

When designing for print, we always recommend that you create your artwork within the CMYK colour mode. This will provide you with colours to work with that are a closer match to those that can be produced in print. Although RGB colours may appear to be more exciting, you may be disappointed when they cannot be perfectly replicated in print.

Side-by-side comparison of RGB and CMYK colours


• Blog post: What’s the difference between CMYK and RGB?

• Blog post: What’s the difference between litho and digital print?

Backlit vs Frontlit

Another factor that alters the appearance of colours is the way they are viewed. Mobile phones, desktop screens and tablets are all backlit. What this means is that the light source is positioned behind the screen and illuminates the colours from behind. This allows colours to have a brighter and more vibrant appearance when compared to front-lit colours.

Printed materials are front lit. When viewing a physical print, the light source comes from the front, either from the sun or from artificial lights. Front-lit prints simply cannot produce the vibrant colour range found in backlit designs.

It is important to remember that every screen is different. Colours displayed on one screen may look completely different on another. Keep this in mind when creating your designs. For a closer colour match at print, we recommend providing the CMYK colour codes to our team.

Paper type and Lamination, is colour affected?

In short, yes, the paper type and lamination you choose can affect the way colours appear when they are printed. Gloss paper, for example, reflects more light, helping colours to appear more vivid, and uncoated paper allows more ink to settle on the surface making colours appear darker.

The same can be said for a lamination. As the lamination is an additional layer over the surface of the print it creates a slight barrier between the print and the light. In turn, this can make the print appear slightly darker as less light is able to reflect off the surface.


• Blog post: Gloss, silk or uncoated paper?

Want to know more about colour in print?

For those who are not too familiar with print, understanding how colours will appear in the print process may be a foreign concept. But don’t worry! Our team of experienced designers are here to provide tips and advice on creating print-ready artwork files.