WHY DOES MY PIECE LOOK DIFFERENT ON MY SCREEN THAN IT DOES ON MY CANVAS PRINT?

 

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I have been in the advertising, marketing and now printing business for almost 35 years. When did I get to be this age? Not today’s question, but a good one none the less.

Whether I was working on a print campaign for the ad agency where I worked for ten years or now at my printing and graphics company, I am often asked, “Why does my color artwork look differently on my computer screen than it does on my printer or on the print or canvas you produce for me?” There can be a host of smaller reasons for this. The overwhelming reason why, however, that your color graphic can look differently on your computer screen than it does on a color print out of your home printer or our state-of-the-art large format, production machines is simple. The screen and the printers use different sets of colors to produce the image.

Your computer screen is using a set of colors known as RGB, which stands for red, green, blue. Both your home color printer and our production wide format machines and printing presses use a color group referred to as CMYK, which stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, black. As any of us that have had to change those expensive little ink cartridges in our home color printer know, there are four of them: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The machines we use to print your lovely images on canvas for you, actually use 6 colors, which are the four already mentioned, as well as light cyan and light magenta. Some other factors can be the type of materials items are printed on. For example, the same print will look very different on canvas compared to paper. In addition, it will look differently on a matte finish paper as opposed to a glossy paper.

So remember, your printer or ours, your artwork may look different when printed than on your computer screen, but the printed piece is the real thing. Once printed and framed, it should bring you joy for years to come.

Best, John