Why Doesn’t My Printout Look The Same As On My Screen?

One printing issue that frustrates our clients more than any other is finding that a printout looks noticeably different to the document they have open on screen. We have all been in a situation where an image or file on your computer shows one thing, but something completely different has come out on the printed version. Often the machine itself is blamed or presumed faulty, but more often than not the person printing assumes that they have done something wrong, or are using the wrong settings or software.

This isn’t just an issue for office or home printing though, but something that professional printers across the industry have to adjust for as well. Below are some of the reasons that you might be experiencing printout problems and a little of the science behind print.

The difference between RGB and CMYK

The main reason that this problem occurs is due to the different ways that colour and images are created on both a screen and paper. When we look at a PC screen the image is created from red, green and blue pixels, or RGB for short. There are millions of pixels in your PC screen that all combine to create the image you look at. In comparison, printers create their images using only thousands of combinations, much less than the millions on a PC screen.

Printers will use a system called CMYK. This stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black, with images printed using these colour combinations. There will, of course, be certain differences due to the pixel variation mentioned above, but also because the images are created using different base colours depending on whether you are viewing a screen or paper.

In professional print, the process of making them as similar as possible is called colour matching. It takes a lot of thought and experience to decipher the best way of reproducing colour on paper. Often the difference between experienced and junior designers is a knowledge of what colours can be reproduced effectively on paper, not just on the screen too.

Print advice from EBM

At EBM, we understand what is required to match screen and print designs. Although often a difficult task, we are able to guide our clients based on the printer they buy and the software they use with some of the foolproof ways of retaining a similar image. If you’ve got any questions about printing, or even a particular printout, or have experienced a similar situation, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us. We’d be more than happy to have a chat and answer any questions you may have.