Some of our clients bring to our attention that sometimes the colours on our printed work are not as bright as those shown in the computer screens. The reason is Physics, and as much as we would like to help, we cannot go against the laws of science. Please allow me to explain.

Computer screens and televisions use a colour system called RGB that stands for Red, Geeen and Blue. Explained in a very simplistic way, these type of devices project 3 beams of light of these colours onto each pixel of the screen. By varying the intensity of these beams all different colours are achieved. For those of you who use computers and deal with colours, you know you can assign a number to each R, G and B value representing the beam intensity. This system is referred to as a Emission Colour system and is based on the emission of light.

In printing we don’t deal with light and screens but with inks, pigments and material surfaces where we apply these inks. The physical process of applying colour onto a surface, whether is it done by a professional printer or a child playing with crayons, is referred to as Absorption Colour system. The very physics of the materials used for printing, or painting for that matter, such as density, pigment saturation, paper absorption index, etc, will determine how a colour display. So while it is very difficult to assess how much a colour will vary when printed on a coated paper (magazine type) or uncoated paper (copying paper type), one thing is very clear: none of them will have a beam of light to originate from (as it is the case of computers) and therefore the colours will not be as bright as those shown on computers. Please see the graphic below:


The two swatches on the graphic represent the same colour as it will appear on your screen (RGB) and how it will appear when printed (CMYK). So what is CMYK? Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y) and Black (K as B is used to represent Blue). In full colour process printing, we use these four colours mixed in various proportions to achieve any other colour.

So instead of having 3 beams of light, we print four tiny dots of the colours above and depending on the size of each dot, it will create a visual effect to represent any other colour. For example if out of the four dots for the colours above we have a very very small Cyan and Black and a very big Magenta and Yellow, the colour we will see is Red. These dots are technically referred to as halftoning, and if you look at a magazine or a newspaper with a magnifying glass you will see exactly what I am talking about.

So that is the reason why colours look duller in printing, in a nutshell, because printing, unlike computers screens, does not use light to display colours.

At Print Bureau, our designers are very aware of these issue, and that is why we use colour emulation software and colour proofing to allow those clients who request this service to check the final colours of their publication before the final run production starts. Just let us know of your expectations or fears when printing your publication and we will strive to provide you as many tests or advice as required.

We know everyone’s multimedia marketing requirements are different, so why not call us to discuss your project. We’ll advise you regarding everything from design to delivery, and provide you with a quotation for the full job.

Call us today at 01 4733567 or email at for more information about your printing.