I have a background in my CYMK photoshop document which is mid to dark grey and is made up of C69 M60 Y56 K66 ( it came from rgb 36 36 36) ... I have calibrated my monitor but when I print this out it looks completely different to what I expect. There is light text overlaid and the background prints so much darker than on screen most of the contrast which was fine on screen is lost in the print. I have studied as much as I can about the different types of blacks but I still don't fully understand why it comes out quite so dark or which black I should be using to get this and why.

Edit: I have calibrated my screen ( using the windows 7 screen calibration wizard). I have not calibrated the screen to the printer - I am looking into this now. The printer I am printing to is a Cannon MP280. The printer is managing the colours. Not sure why I thought that the contrast was being reduced - as pointed out in the comments this makes no sense. I think I've overlooked an issue with the lighter colours as well - they must be printing darker too or something.

  • If it's too dark, then the answer is to use a lighter gray.
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 2:10
  • 1
    Unfortunately, the picture you're giving isn't too clear. You're apparently printing a CMYK document to an RGB device (desktop printer). You don't say whether Photoshop or the printer is managing the colors (or both, heaven forbid). You have light text overlaid on the background, but when the background gets darker the contrast is reduced? Clarify the question a bit, say which printer you're using, and include a screenshot. We'd like to help, but you aren't giving us enough to work with. Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 4:48
  • @AlanGilbertson yes you're right sorry I haven't included enough info and the contrast issue makes no sense. I edited my question. I didn't know that desktop devices were RGB ( mine takes CYM and black inks). The reason I'm doing this is to prepare for proofing a document for printing on a commercial print job, so I will have to be in the CYMK space. I see someone else mentions a CYMK printer. Maybe my printer is no use to me for proofing a print job? Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 12:36
  • @DA01 Thanks but surely there's a way I can set up my system so that while I'm designing on screen I can be reasonably confident that what I see will print roughly as I see it ... rather than trial and error between the screen and printer? Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 13:31
  • All printers are CMYK. However, they may take input in different ways (CMYK vs. RGB). If you want to set up a proper proofing system, you will need to invest in a high quality printer, a high quality monitor, and screen calibration hardware.
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 14:10

3 Answers 3


I would think the results would be very dependent upon if your screen is accurately calibrated to your printer, most print companies use professional software/hardware to achieve accuracy.

Typically when I print on my wide format printer, I since it is a true CMYK printer, I would print RGB 36,36,36 as CMYK, I would reduce the CMY down to 0,0,0 and print as CMYK 0,0,0,86 this prints a true gray rather than muddy CMY colors.

I derive this CMYK number by using a formula for the equivalent, since RGB values are 0-255 and CMYK is 0-100, the formula would be 100-((36*100)/255)=86 or CMYK 0,0,0,86


I believe if you reduce the values of CM and Y you will get the good result you want because I see that you are using four colors above 50% of their maximum value. I also suggest that you use the same values of CM and Y, because if you use C more than M Y you will get gray, but a bluish gray and the same thing with the other colors e.g. reddish gray and yellowish gray.

Just reduce the the values of all colors except K.

  • Rahul, I've adjusted your text so it reads more easily in English. Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 5:29

The most likely issues you're running into are that your monitor is way too bright and your printer is confused by the CMYK image it's receiving.

Almost all monitors come from the factory set to an eyeball-searing brightness. Apple monitors are notorious in this regard, but it's pretty much the norm. Once upon a time, this was a good thing, because it provided for the fact that the output of fluorescent backlights diminishes over time. Modern LED backlights are not prone to the same reduction. The problem is that when you use your OS's built-in calibration feature it really doesn't compensate for this, depending on your subjective responses. Worse, the first step usually tells you to set your monitor to maximum brightness, the exact opposite of what you need. (My monitors have to stay set at near-minimum brightness to be accurate.)

"How white is white" changes according to what your eyes have become used to in the preceding minute or so of looking at the screen and how bright (and colorful) the environment is overall. That's why most designers work in relatively dim ambient light in neutral surroundings.

Desktop office and photo printers are RGB devices, despite the fact that they use CMYK inks to strut their stuff. The printer driver and firmware are set up to receive RGB data and convert it for printer output. Few are natively capable of handling CMYK data, and a multi-function printer such as you're using isn't one of them.

You can work around this limitation in one of two ways: save an RGB version of your document and print that, or use "Photoshop manages colors" and select sRGB as the output profile. If you take the latter course, you MUST turn off color management in the printer, which in the Canon drivers is done by setting Color/Intensity to "Manual," clicking Set and changing Matching to "None".

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