Print VS Screen - Why do they look different? PART 1

Probably the most common questions we are asked is: "why doesn't my print look the same as it does on the screen?" 

The answer to that is exceptionally broad and is contributed to by many factors. I will try to break down the MAIN components that affect the variation from screen to print (or print to screen for scanned / copied images) for you. 

Colour Space
The majority of colour printers use a 4 colour system - Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y) and Black (K). There may be a few variations but these 4 colours form the basis of all standard colour printers. 

The CMYK colour space is called a 'subtractive' colour system as the more colour that is applied, the LESS LIGHT will be able to be reflected from the printing surface. 

Screens (including mobile phones, cameras and scanning devices) use a Red (R), Green (G), Blue (B) colour system, also known as 'additive' colour space - because the more intense the colour the MORE LIGHT that is being used. 

Understanding that concept is the reason that you will notice a significant loss in lustre / brightness to your printed photographs - because there is less light. 

The size/shape of colour space itself is also significantly different (see image below left) and the variance between the 'same' colours is fairly significant (see image below right). In practical terms this means that the colours you can create on your computer are a much wider range than the colours that can be produced by your standard printer, so the printer simply selects the closest composite (which is not always that close). 



Screen / Printer Calibration
While we do try to keep our printers and screens reasonably close, as we have a number of computers using a variety of different printer types, each printer using a variety of different types of media, all the computers operating in slightly different environments and lighting and using different backlit systems... it is pretty much impossible. 

Then factor in the variation from your laptop / desktop / tablet / phone to our system. And the chances are there is going to be a variation with how the images are displayed, and then again to how they are printed. 


Continue reading next week for more information on PRINT vs SCREEN and what causes colour variation in printing between different papers and printers. 


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