No man's knowledge here can go beyond his experience. ~John Locke

Why doesn't my image look the same printed as it does on the screen?

Why doesn't my image look the same printed as it does on the screen?

The difference between RGB, CMYK, and Pantone Colors.

You may have wondered why the colors on your image look different when printed out versus on the screen. The colors are off, but you don’t know why. No you’re not crazy and there’s a simple explanation for this. There are different color modes for viewing on a screen and printed on paper. They are RGB, CMYK, and Pantone Matching System (PMS).

RGB (Red, Green, Blue)

RGB colors are colors that all computer, smart phone, or any digital screens are in. All of the colors on a screen are a varying combination of the three main colors: red, green, and blue. RGB is an additive color mode. Since your screen is black, light needs to be added. When these 3 colors are turned all the way up, the result you get is white.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key or Black)

When images are printed they are printed with a mixture of dots in CMYK. If you zoom into a magazine, for example, you will see the dots of color. CMYK colors are subtractive color which means they soak up reflected light.


Pantone, or PMS, is a standardized, numbered color matching system for identifying colors. Inks are created using a formula and then printed in a swatch book. This color system ensures consistent color matching. Many company logos and branding are created with the PMS colors which are then converted to CMYK or RGB when needed.

Long story short, what you see on your screen isn’t always what you get. If you’re creating something that’s going to be viewed on a screen make sure your color mode is RGB. If you’re making something you intend to get printed the color mode should be CMYK. If you’re creating a logo or brand it’s always best to do that in PMS. Good luck and if you have any questions feel free to let us know, and we’ll be happy to help!

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