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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why do my prints not look the same as they do on my PC screen?

Most people are surprised that the picture they have printed looks very different from what is displayed on their computer monitor. 

The reason is most monitors display colours by mixing 3 primary ‘additive colours’, Red, Blue and Green (RGB). Each pixel on the screen is made up of a mixture of these 3 colours and when ‘added’ to the black of the monitor results in the eye interpreting this mixture as a specific colour or hue.

Most inkjet printers are CMYK based and print a picture based on ‘subtractive’ colour using a system of mixing colours produced by chemical pigments to obtain the desired colour. This difference in producing colours means the colours you print on paper are much more dependent on surrounding light and vary depending on this ambient illumination. 

A bright and vibrant print could cost
you a lot of time and money
Subtractive colour refers light wavelengths and how they appear the surrounding world and how our eyes interpret those colours. Sunlight is all the colours in the known spectrum. When this light hits an object such as a red traffic sign the material this sign is made from absorbs some of the spectrum, such as greens and blues and all that is reflected are the remaining colours which make red. Hence, these colours are ‘subtracted’ leaving behind the colour that our eyes see. 

The image on the right may look bright and vibrant on your monitor but it is very unlikely you will get a print that is an exact match. If you want truly accurate colour you will have to spend a lot of money on a high end printer and a lot of time calibrating your monitor and printer.

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