Color Quality & Matching


The topic of Color Quality could cover volumes. This section is in no way meant to be an exhaustive reference to the topic, rather a "quick guide" to help our customers stay away from common issues we have seen in the past.



RGB & CMYK Color Modes


Scanners, digital cameras and computer monitors use red, green and blue (RGB) light to display color. Presses print with cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) ink instead of RGB light, and therefore produce a different range of color.


To print on a four-color press, all RGB files must be converted into CMYK.


Certain RGB colors that you can see on your monitor or camera (in particular, bright vibrant colors) simply cannot be replicated with standard CMYK inks. These unachievable RGB colors are said to be "out of the CMYK color gamut." When selecting colors for your print project, we recommend using CMYK color builds to avoid potential RGB conversion issues.


You are more likely to notice color shifts when you use a solid, bright color as a background or fill.


RGB-CMYK Conversion


To be able to print on a four-color press, all RGB files must be translated into CMYK. This conversion can be easily done in most image editing programs.


We are happy to convert your images from RGB to CMYK, however we will do a standard-value conversion, which may result in a color different than you were expecting. We cannot be responsible for sub-par results if you furnish RGB images.


You will have more control over the appearance of your printed piece if you do the color conversion yourself. We want you to be happy with your printed piece, so please take the time to prepare your file as recommended to ensure the best quality product.


Consistent Color & Color Matching


A highly useful tool for selecting reproducible CMYK colors is the Pantone Process Color Guide. This swatch guide displays over 3,000 colors with corresponding color builds, and is available on both coated and uncoated stock. This is strongly recommended if you will be doing repeat printing projects, or have color concerns.


We can print with PMS colors if you have a custom printing project. Contact us for a custom quote. You can improve the color accuracy of your monitor through a process called calibration. If you have critical color concerns, consider consulting a Pantone Process Color Guide or a hard copy proof.


Be aware that monitor types vary in how well they can display color and graphics. Generally, CRT monitors have the best color and resolution; flat & LCD monitors have poorer color quality and limited resolution. Individual monitor settings such as brightness, contrast, frequency, temperature, etc. will also affect your color accuracy.


What all this boils down to is that images on your monitor will always look somewhat different than the final printed piece.


Matching Pantone (PMS) colors using Process (CMYK) Printing What are Pantone (PMS) colors?


This is a standardized color matching system, used to ensure color consistency with specific colors. It can be very frustrating to see the logo you worked hard to create look deep blue on the client's letterhead, blue-greenish on his business card, and light blue on his very expensive envelopes. A way to prevent color shifts from one print run to the next, or from front to back, on objects of critical color is by using a standardized color matching system, such as the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM. Though PANTONE is not the only color standardization system, it is the most widely used system. Aside from being able to have consistency, PANTONE Colors allow you to use colors that cannot be mixed in CMYK.


Most Pantone colors can be matched closely using a CMYK mix, however, we recommend using Pantone color(s) when color consistency is critical, with a logo, for example.  If your file contains a Pantone color but you want to print using only CMYK, we recommend converting your file to CMYK prior to submitting it for print. This will let you see the extent of the color shift before your project is printed.  We also recommend using a specific Pantone color for any blues in the Reflex blue range as these colors tend to gain red on press and shift the color to a purplish shade rather than the blue you intended.


Printed blacks are not all created the same


Computers display color with RGB light, while presses print with CMYK ink. On computer monitors, all blacks will generally appear consistent. But when printed, inconsistent black builds will be obvious. It is important to know the CMYK builds of any blacks used in your project so that you can achieve the results you want.


Guidelines For a Rich Black:


When black is the text color, we recommend using 100% black (0 C / 0 M / 0 Y / 100 K) for crispest results. If you have a solid black area larger than two square inches, we recommend using a "rich black" to achieve a thicker, darker and more uniform color. Tailormade Printing recommends a rich black color build of 60 C / 40 M / 20 Y / 100 K.


When you have two neighboring backgrounds, adjoining color builds should match to achieve a seamless appearance.


If your piece has a black or dark color background, we highly recommend that you have aqueous coating applied. Dark backgrounds are more likely to show fingerprints and smudges. Aqueous coating can minimize smudging.