Why don’t the colours match?

Lots of things affect the way colours appear and so it is not always possible to get an exact match. In this document, Geoff from Premonition design explains why sometimes what you see is not what you get.

Printing inks

Spot colours don’t match process colours. Spot colours are mixed up in a bucket like paint. They are often used when printing in two colours – on letterheads, for example. The printer then puts this coloured ink into his machine. Process colours, on the other hand are used when you print in full colour, required for colour photos, and are a mixture of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black inks. Tiny dots of these inks are printed on the paper in varying sizes – these dots make up the different colours. If you look very closely at a colour picture in a newspaper you’ll see these dots.

Using spot colours enables you to achieve special colours like metalics, fluorescents and very vivid colours. Process colours allow you to faithfully reproduce photographs. Spot colours and process colours will not match

Different paper equals different colour

The same ink colours will look different when printed on different papers. This effect is most noticeable when the same colour is seen on Glossy and letterhead paper. The colour on letterhead paper looks much duller. Try it yourself by marking a newspaper, letterhead and magazine page with a felt tip pen. The same ink on different papers will not match

On-screen colours are off-target colours

Colours you see on screen are never the same as those you see on a printed page. Screens make up colours by using glowing phosphors in Red Green and Blue varieties. Full colour printed paper uses inks that are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. What you see onscreen is often wildly different to what you’ll see on the printed page.

My screen’s better than your screen!

Colours vary widely from monitor to monitor. There are a host of reasons. Different brightness or contrast settings. How old your monitor is and who made it. Different software colour-matching. (Windows has some colour matching built in.) Even the same file viewed in different applications will probably look different.

So what can we do about it?

Well, at Premonition we work very hard to make sure the colours in your work are consistent and well reproduced. We take care when scanning images that we capture as much detail in the originals as possible. We then adjust contrast carefully to preserve the important detail while giving the pictures the right amount of ‘punch’. We check process and spot colours against special printed ‘swatch books’. Most of all, we apply our experience of thousands of successful print jobs to ensure that you get the best from your colours.

PDF files – what you really need to know

Here at Premonition we use Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files so that our clients can see what finished designs look like. In this document Geoff answers common questions about PDF files.

How can I open it?

You need special software to read the PDF file, but that software is FREE.

You can download the FREE Adobe Acrobat Reader from Adobe’s web site.

Alternatively, it will be on most free CDs you get with computer magazines. Or ask your IT support to install Adobe Acrobat Reader for you.

Why do you use PDF files?

We use PDF files because they are the only way we can send you documents that look like the final product will look. You can zoom in and read even small text, which you could not do if we just sent you screenshots. You can print it out, and although the photos might look a bit ‘blocky’, text and diagrams will remain legible. And you can look at them on all major platforms – PC, Mac, Linux, Palm, Pocket PC… the list goes on. It’s a great step forward.

So the final product will look exactly like this PDF, huh?

Well, no. The colours won’t match exactly. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is that ink on a page is never quite the same colour as glowing phosphors on a PC monitor. Here at Premonition we go to great lengths to ensure your colour output is optimal, but that doesn’t mean it will exactly match. See ‘why don’t the colours match?’. Also any pictures will be ‘blockier’ than they will be in the final printed piece, because information has been taken away so that the file travels quickly across the Internet.