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How to Colour-Match a Print Project

In Digital printing, Printing tips | on Thursday, July 21, 2016

Colours will always appear differently on a screen than they will in print, so it can be extremely difficult to match up the colours and get the design to look right on the finished product. Designers who are familiar with the printing process may choose colours for the design based on a colour catalogue such as Pantone. However, designers who are not familiar with the printing process may use RGB or HEX values in their designs, which can be difficult to transfer into print. The same goes for existing designs and photos that aren’t necessarily produced with screen or transfer printing in mind.

Being in the t-shirt printing business, we’ve mastered the art of colour-matching, so we thought we’d share a few of our trade secrets and tips with you before you begin your designs…

  • Improve your workspace: Although most colours will appear differently from screen to print, you can help matters by making some adjustments to your workspace. Position your monitor to avoid unnecessary glare on the screen; don’t work in overly bright or dark conditions; and sit in the right position to view your monitor at the right angle, i.e. view it straight on rather than at an angle. It also helps to invest decent money in your monitor as some cheaper ones can have a direct impact on the ability to accurately predict the results of a print.
  • Have an eye test: If you wear glasses it’s important to keep your prescription up to date, as your own perception of colour can be affected if you’re wearing glasses that aren’t fully suited to your current eye situation. Also, do remember to wear your glasses whilst working on designs too as their absence can cause eye strain and affect your ability to judge brightness, colour, and contrast.
  • Calibrate your monitor: Once your environment and eyesight are dealt with, the next step is to calibrate your screen in order to check that it is accurately reproducing colour. A calibration tool such as Pantone’s Huey Pro will measure the ambient light in your workspace and the light emitted by your screen, adjusting your monitor’s colour space accordingly.
  • Use the right colour space: There are typically several different colour spaces installed on a computer, and almost every PC uses RGB by default. Your machine may also have AdobeRGB colour space and various CMYK colour profiles installed. Working within the right colour space for your intended output can make life a lot easier.
  • Use a colour library: These don’t come cheap, but they’re definitely worth the £100+ investment. A colour library, such as the one offered by Pantone, provides an accurate set of colour sample chips that allow you and your clients to see exactly what the colour will look like when it goes from screen to print.
  • Soft proof your work: Printing your work is obviously the best way to see what the final product will look like, but applications such as Photoshop also allow you to view it on the screen in a semi-accurate simulation of the final product.
  • Communicate with your print company: Whether you’re using Arti Promotions or another print company, it pays to speak to your print company during the design process so that you can both work from the same page, so to speak. Most reputable printing companies will be more than happy to provide you with colour-matching samples so that you can get the design completely right from the outset.