this is a newbie question: I only made a bit of interface design in my life, and now I have to produce some printables - I used my old faithful Fireworks because Photoshop I don't know how to use quickly, I made documents 300 dpi, created vector graphics solid colour fill, RGB (well, I knew only the Pantone hex colors but Fireworks also puts the RGB number, don't know which one denotes the file) but whenever I try to print the colors are all meh and not very vivid, I exported PNG and JPEG highest quality, and I just don't seem to get a good image quality. I tried different papers, and different copy shops. What am I doing wrong please? Should I just redo everything with Photoshop or Indesign, would that change things?I have some vector graphics and fonts that I did myself and some photos processed with a filter by some apps, also 300 dpi I believe. What else can I do to get those pretty solid colors you see in commercial prints please? Thank you


1 Answer 1


Printing with common CMYK inks to usual papers simply cannot create the colors you expect. You have a theoretical possiblity to define all colors you need as Pantone numbers and order a multiplate spot color printing which uses exactly the colors you specified. For most of us it's only a dream because the cost probably jumps through the ceiling and in practice only a few colors can be placed reliably.

Adobe print production software (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, Acrobat) can predict properly what well specified printing processes make and show the result right onscreen or at least as well as your monitor can show them. That' the "Color Management" One must ask the color profile from the printshop. The professional ones probably can give all needed color and printing settings, if asked.

What's the big idea to use the mentioned color management practices, if good colors cannot be printed? That's because good colors are relative. If all colors in a page are well selected and printed as wanted, a good looking page is well possible to produce, no matter the color range (=Gamut) is limited.

One must avoid unprintable colors because they will become messy in printing. Printable colors will come out as seen on the screen, if you have a calibrated screen and you use color management.

ADD due questioner's comment:

With office printers which present themselves as RGB printers and have no color profile which can be inserted to system, one can well make something which is alive on the screen but is killed when it's printed.

You must design with colors which can be printed. You can design in CMYK mode for ex. having working cmyk = Euroscale Uncoated, but you must obviously produce still RGB files to be sure they can be used properly (=print with low cost printers, place into MS Office documents etc. normal works with tools which have only RGB). If you work in photoshop you simply change the mode from CMYK to RGB when the design is done.

If you make PDFs you can define the output color mode, no matter do you design in CMYK. When you convert CMYK colors to RGB, you lose very little, much less than by converting bright RGB colors to CMYK.

You can also do this:

Find and paint a good color combination in Photoshop in CMYK mode. Convert that raster image to RGB and save it as PNG or JPG. Import that image to a RGB mode drawing program and pick colors from it. That will work with programs which know nothing about CMYK printing (=Inkscape, MS Office, etc...)

  • thank you! the problem is, if I want to make some files that everyone can print after downloading and get more or less the same result, should they be set to CMYK or to what? Because most home printers cannot print CMYK...And that way I cannot consider individual printing settings, or should I? What do you suggest?
    – TInex
    May 31, 2019 at 3:19
  • @TInex nearly all printers print in cmyk. Even home printers that work on as if they were RGB. They just use a somewhat random method for conversion. If you dont target professional printers then there is no way for you to enforce the color. Sorry. If you cant use cmyk then you can not enforce the color of black. Design in a cmyk gamut since its smaller then convert to rgb.
    – joojaa
    May 31, 2019 at 6:08

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