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Color theory, standards, and calibration

Color modes and calibration

Customers often ask why the color from their office printer looks different than the color on a professionally printed job. There are many factors that influence the ways colors print and how they compare to your computer monitor. The technology and modes used by each of these are not the same, and the spectrum of color achievable by each method varies. This is known as the device’s color gamut.

Probably the most important factor is the accuracy of the device’s calibration and the standard by which it was calibrated.


Digital cameras, computer monitors and scanners use red, green and blue (RGB) light or filters to display or scan color, while commercial printing presses, inkjet printers and laser printers print with cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) inks. Each of these modes produces a different gamut of color:


RGB lights combine to make white

CMYK inks combine to create black

In order to print four-color press all RGB files must be converted into CMYK color. Some RGB colors that you see on your monitor or camera (bright vibrant colors) simply cannot be duplicated with standard CMYK inks. These unachievable RGB colors are out of the CMYK color gamut, and can’t be reproduced accurately in CMYK. When selecting colors for your job, we recommend using CMYK color to avoid potential RGB color shifts. A valuable tool for selecting reproducible CMYK colors is the Pantone Process Color Guide. This swatch guide shows over 3,000 colors with corresponding color builds, and is available on both coated and uncoated stock. Jobs can also print with PMS colors if you need a specific color that cannot be reproduced using process inks, or we can create a custom ink based on samples you provide.


At Paragon Press we use industry standard spectophotometers, profiling software, and the latest G7 print specifications to measure and calibrate the color of our presses and inkjet proofers. The G7 standard is what all our devices are targeted to reproduce. You can improve the color accuracy of your monitor or office printer by properly calibrating it. Monitors and printers usually come with some kind of calibration settings, but usually these are very basic, and are often not enough to get an accurate calibration. X-rite makes calibration tools that can assist in monitor and printer calibration, and are trusted industry-wide. There are also professionals who will come to your location and calibrate your devices for a fee.

If you have further questions regarding color and calibration, please give us a call!

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