I'm unsure of why my label's golden/brown colour is so dull. It's in and was created in CMYK, the PDF was outputted to press quality. It's being printed digitally. (It's a small run of labels.) I've included an image of what it's supposed to look like vs what is printing.

I've chatted with the printer for advice but was essentially told it prints from the file and that's it.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • well if it's designed in CMYK then it's probably the printer or material difference since each printer gives different output based on what it prints on like cloth;paper;vinyl etc! if the material will be glossy (highly reflective) then your color will be shiny then compared to the normal papers! that's what I think.
    – Mr.Online
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 11:45
  • 1
    Printed digitally... do you know if the digital press uses toner or liquid ink? It makes a huge difference in quality of output!
    – curious
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 13:59

3 Answers 3


On why? I can not tell without knowing the project. But most likely it is a matter of color profiles as almost always is the case.

There are two things you can do.

  1. Send your file as RGB, which on digital printers often provide more saturated colors.

  2. But most important. Print a color atlas on the exact same printer you are using and choose the color from the physical print.

You can use this file or prepare your own.

After printing an initial color atlas you can further refine your swatches, but you can easily calculate intermediate values.


1) Use a Rich Black
Are you referring to the dullness of the black? If so, then you should be using a rich black (also known as built black). Rich black is a created by using a CMYK formula that adds C, M, and Y to 100% K to result in a much deeper black. There are many different formulas (look it up on wikipedia for a good set of rich blacks with different "temperatures").

One build that I use for digital printing is: C: 30% M: 25% Y: 27% K: 100%

Since a lot of digital printers lean toward the magenta side, this blend gives a more neutral tone.

WARNING: There are dangers to using rich black, both on offset and digital printing. Too much ink coverage will often lead to offsetting (ghosting on the backs of sheets) on an offset press. On a digital printer, having too much ink coverage can lead to the ink cracking and/or flaking off of the prints.

2) Make it Glossy
You may also consider using a coated stock and/or adding a varnish coat to add a luster to the prints. A thin laminate may also work well with these, but laminating is usually more expensive.

  • 1
    She is asking about the brown :o)
    – Rafael
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 13:59
  • oot! Thanks for pointing that out.
    – 13ruce
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 15:04

For one the paper quality seems to be an issue here. But printing thin colored lines in CMYK is often problematic. Colors in CMYK are created by layers of raster points. In thin lines these raster points do not have enough room to create an even and saturated color. Some colors work better than others. If you can set at least one channel to 100% (yellow in your case), it might improve the result a bit. A better idea is to print with spot colors and use better quality paper.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.