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  • Michael Granata

The Importance of Color Accuracy in Graphic Design: A Delicate Dance

Updated: May 22

Achieving color accuracy in printing can be a delicate dance, often accompanied by challenges. Let's waltz through some of the common hurdles:



The Challenges

All printers and monitors have varying color capabilities. For example, if you print an event flyer on your HP printer at home, then print the same flyer from your Epson printer at work, chances are the colors on the flyer will be slightly different. The same is true for large format printers used by sign companies. Let's explore some of the countless reasons for why this happens:


  • Different Substrates: Printers behave differently on various substrates (paper, vinyl, fabric, etc.). Each material absorbs ink uniquely. The color of the substrate also affects ink appearance. Imagine printing a yellow sun on a blue piece of paper. The yellow sun will likely appear green.

  • Ink Limitations: Printers use a finite set of ink colors like cyan, magenta, yellow, and key(black) aka CMYK. Printers mix these inks to achieve the intended color. However, due to the limited ink options, some colors may never be spot-on.

  • Metamerism: This is a color phenomenon that occurs when a color appears differently under different lighting conditions. For example, a color that looks grey in the daylight might appear green under florescent bulbs. Test prints under various lighting scenarios helps to avoid any undue surprises.

  • Color Spaces: Design programs like photoshop or illustrator use different color spaces like RGB, CMYK, or LAB. Because of this, converting between color spaces can lead to lost nuances.

  • Human Perception: We all perceive color a little differently and our eyes can play tricks on us. Two blue hues that look identical to one person may look slightly different to another.

  • Environmental Factors: Temperature, humidity, and altitude affect ink drying and color behavior. Printing on a mountaintop in the winter is not the same as printing at sea level in the summer.


The Solutions

How do we combat the challenges?


When it comes to printers, it's important to regularly calibrate and profile each device. Controlling the environmental conditions of the printing space as much as possible will help with color consistency. Creating profiles for specific substrates can help tame color variations. We must also adjust color profiles to compensate for substrate hues. Understanding ink limitations and managing expectations is a must. Test prints under various lighting scenarios can avoid surprises. Choosing the right color space for the job and converting with care is imperative. How we perceive color is so unique that it's important to consult with customers, use reference samples, and trust the color management tools.



While these solutions may be helpful, it may not achieve 100% color accuracy. In this case, it's important to set realistic expectations, communicate openly, and educate customers about color limitations.








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