Why can't I print the right colour?

Why can't I print the right colour?

This has to be one of the most commonly asked questions around printing ID Cards.

I've sat through installations with our ID Card Printers watching the marketing manager tear her hair out trying to come up with a design that yielded the exact colour match for the company logo.

It comes down to colour conversions. And there are a lot of them!

All Card Printers are connected to a computer in order to receive the design and template that needs to be printed.

The files you are working with in Photoshop are probably CMYK format - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.  (The "K" in CMYK stands for key because in four-color printing, cyan, magenta, and yellow printing plates are carefully keyed, or aligned, with the key of the black key plate.)

However, the monitor you are viewing it on is using the RGB format (Red, Green Blue).  So, technically, what you see on the screen is not actually representative of the design file.

Next, the ID software you use renders the image when you merge the template with the personalized data you've added.  Depending on how well the ID software compression algorithms have been programmed, this step may substantially change the colours.

The ID software sends the image to the printer driver, and the Card Printer driver is programmed for RGB.  The Card Printer itself prints in CMYK (that explains the ribbon having multiple panels in a sequence of yellow, red, blue, black and overlay).

Lost yet?

Here's a summary of conversions:

The original design file is built in CMYK, but displays in RGB on your screen, gets rendered by the ID software, then converted to RGB when it goes through the printer driver.  Once the image hits the printer, its converted back to CMYK to match the ribbon panels.

Its really no wonder that colours get lost in translation.

Here's the only way to make it work for you:

  1. Take your logo, and print it on your Card Printer.
  2. Compare it to an "official" printed copy of your logo.
  3. Change the colours of your logo.
  4. Repeat step 1.
  5. You may need to repeat steps 2 through 4 several more times.

Thats it!  All the best in your search for the colour you REALLY need to print on that ID Card Printer.  You are up to the challenge.




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