Print vs Screen

Have you taken a page from the printer and noticed that it looks significantly different on a page than it did on the screen? Understanding the differences between the way color is represented by screen and print designs can help prepare you for what to expect from the finished product.

Screen designs use the color “language” of RGB (Red, Green and Blue) or HEX. Printer designs are based on CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). As an aside, the reason “K” is used for black is that it really stands for “key.” The key plate is the black plate, contains essential information, and is lined up with the other colors. Since the screen designs are in terms of RGB and Printers “translate” it to CMYK, some colors, particularly oranges and vivid hues, may not appear the same on the page as on the screen.


Another difference between the way color is displayed in RGB and CMYK is that RGB deals with color in terms of light and CMYK is expressed in dots that create the colors. Shades may vary depending on the monitor used; CRT will display colors as brighter while LCD shades are more subdued.

When dealing with printed colors, it is important to take into account of “spot colors” or those that have been standardized under the Pantone Matching System (PMS). Pantone guides show how various colors will look on a page produced by a CMYK printer. A PMS color has a number and a name and can be easily identified on the guide.


One tip is to use the Rich Black shade for actual designs requiring black and regular black for tables and other regular copy. Make sure there is sufficient time to check the color proofs to ensure they are the shades you intended for the visuals, and it is a good idea to have CYMK conversion in your office space.
In terms of size, it is important to be mindful of margins, since they are on the printed page but not the screen. When dealing with picas, remember that each pica has 12 points and an inch has 6 picas.

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