Minimize Color Discrepancies When Printing
When printing from your office computer, there is no way to standardize color across all printers and monitors due to the sheer number of variables — the type of machine, type of paper, type of ink used, ink age (freshness), humidity. The list goes on. You can print the same image from the same office printer at different days of the week and get different results.
People who work with color professionally (designers, printers, etc) use highly calibrated equipment and work in controlled situations.
Our graphic designers control the lighting in their offices, avoiding natural light, and restricting color work to a desktop computer with calibrated color settings.
Professional printers either mix ink colors to specification for offset printing or use highly calibrated digital printers. Even big production companies like Staples and Vistaprint, which do digital printing almost exclusively, have calibration routines — and results can still vary from location to location with walk-in companies like Staples, depending on how recently a technician calibrated their machines.
Printing Color from In-office Printers
You’ll never get perfectly consistent results from your in-office printers. Nevertheless, you’ll minimize color disparities by following these tips.
- print your letterhead on laser-safe or inkjet-safe paper
- use laser-safe or inkjet-safe inks
- use the same paper every time
- use the same printer
- print from the same computer
Why Print from the Same Computer?
Results will vary when printing from different computers to the same in-office printer, especially if you’re alternating between a Mac and a PC. Color output varies in this case because Macs and PCs send information to your printer differently.
Mac vs. PC?
If you have the luxury to choose between a Mac and a PC for color work and printing, Macs are a better choice.
Macs are more sensitive (better calibrated). They are also better at recognizing and communicating color. Apple’s roots are in the graphic arts; PCs are less so.
If you must print from a PC, and color consistency is a concern, you can minimize distortion by color calibrating your graphics software — if your software provides that option.
Other Branding and Printing Considerations
From a branding perspective, it isn’t unusual to have two letterheads: a primary letterhead for high impact, which may require plenty of ink, and a “second-sheet,” which typically is simpler, requires less ink, and is thus more affordable to print.
Companies that print proposals or the like on many sheets of paper economize on print costs by displaying their second-sheet letterhead on secondary pages. The top sheet makes the initial impression and the second sheets carry the brand message while minimizing production expense.
Designs that Bleed
Artwork that touches the edges of the paper (called bleeding) can cost more to print because larger sheets of paper are typically required. After printing the sheet is then cut down to size.
Business cards are an exception. Artwork extending (bleeding) to the edge does not generally affect professional production costs because business cards are too small to be printed one at a time anyway, and so are printed on larger sheets of paper and then cut.
Achieving Brand Consistency through Design and Practice
To achieve color consistency in your printed branding materials, be consistent when making production decisions. For example, if your business cards are being printed in full color (CMYK), then so should your letterheads and envelope, ideally by the very same production house, at the same time.
Pantone Can Help
When printing everything at once isn’t possible or practical, the Pantone color system can help minimize color discrepancies – but while some Pantone colors match CMYK colors closely, others do not. And, because CMYK has more variables, color matching for future projects can prove complex and frustrating.
Expert branding designers favor colors with high match rates among the popular color models (CMYK, RGB, Pantone). Attention to this detail minimizes color distortion to ensure consistent branding without forfeiting opportunities to achieve production-cost savings.