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

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


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

The colors that you see on your screen are within the RGB spectrum. RGB colors tend to be brighter, warmer, and more diverse in the color tones that can be produced. On the other hand, the colors used in print are within the CMYK spectrum. CMYK colors 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 color mode. This will provide you with colors to work with that are a closer match to those that can be produced in print. Although RGB colors 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 colors


• 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 colors 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 colors from behind. This allows colors to have a brighter and more vibrant appearance when compared to front-lit colors.

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 color range found in backlit designs.

It is important to remember that every screen is different. Colors displayed on one screen may look completely different on another. Keep this in mind when creating your designs. For a closer color match at print, we recommend providing the CMYK color 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 colors appear when they are printed. Gloss paper, for example, reflects more light, helping colors to appear more vivid, and uncoated paper allows more ink to settle on the surface making colors 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 color in print?

For those who are not too familiar with print, understanding how colors 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.