I mostly work with digital design. Recently I decided to get a few of my poster designs printed for my own collection. I used a professional printing company to order the prints and send them the JPEGs as requested.

The prints however are radically different from what I'm seeing on screen. I have set the document in Illustrator to be European General Purpose 3 as I'm in the UK and I'm using CMYK colours and exporting using the Export For Web... option as this is the only way I knew to get JPEGs.

The first prints I received were much lighter than designed but when I contacted the company that said they were aware of a batch of prints that had colour correction wrongly applied to them and they would send me out replacements. I received the replacements and they are now a bit darker than designed.

I actually prefer the printed (darker) version of the print than the on screen version but it bothers me that they are so radically different and worries me that if I design something else I may not like the printed result.

Below are the three versions. I scanned the prints so obviously that will have changed things slightly but you can still see that stark differences.

Prints with incorrect colour

The PRINTED (NO CORRECTION) is the one I prefer but it's still fairly different from the ORIGINAL DIGITAL.

  • Don't use save for web use File-> export, anwyay i recommend switching printer. With constraints like this how do we know your printer has a color correct workflow. Without one you lose by default.
    – joojaa
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 18:41
  • @joojaa I don't imagine they are the best printer around but they are charging drastically less than most of the others. If I was doing any sort of final work for anything I would use a different printer but for personal prints just for my collection I'd rather spend as little as possible.
    – Flatlyn
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 21:44
  • Yes but consider that you get what you pay for, being consoderably cheaper is one thing. But if you dont get what you want? It doesnt really matter. I dont think you can afford to be picky under these circumstances.
    – joojaa
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 5:10
  • @joojaa I've just been doing some testing on my own printer. It's not professional level but is high end and supports colour profiles. Strangely the results from my printer and almost identical to the results from the printer I ordered from. I've colour tested my printer on other work and the colour match as they should so I'm pretty sure there is something else wrong here.
    – Flatlyn
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 5:20
  • Yes, you see QC costs money, software cost money. A cheap as hell printer may miss the software end. Remember Adobe basically invented the digital printing industry, their software has considerable amount of code to do things right. When you go cheap you lose many dimensions, they will not care. If they want to stay in business they can not afford to.
    – joojaa
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 5:29

1 Answer 1


PDF is the standard format for print these days, especially PDF/X; you can export a PDF directly from Illustrator. Also, while you set your document to CMYK, save for web will create RGB JPGs.

For something like your design you can go a step further by specifying Pantone colours (assuming you have access to a Pantone book for reference). These enables you to match your colours to real printed swatches, rather than trying to eyeball a colour on screen. Colour is very subjective; you can't really say that the file didn't print 'correctly' unless you've specified particular Pantones or CMYK breakdowns. Screens don't present colours the same way as print, nor are do all screens present colours equally. Trying to make colour choices for print solely by looking at a screen is asking for trouble.

  • I know PDF is the standard but the printer I'm using only take JPEG. They are cheaper than most others, and probably for a good reason but I'd still except some resemblance to the colour matching. Unfortunately I don't have a Panatone book. I don't expect colours on screen to be exactly the same as the printed colours but I would expect at least the tones to be similar, and they don't seem to be.
    – Flatlyn
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 18:29
  • The fact that the printers are cheap and only accept JPGs actually goes a long way to answering your question. There will often be a colour shift when converting an RGB image to CMYK for printing. It's a very complicated topic but in a nutshell the RGB colours can't map to CMYK directly, the colour spaces are different, with RGB typically having a larger gamut. Therefore, when you convert it from CMYK to RGB you're going to lose something along the way depending on the method (intent) used and the colours involved. Sometimes it's vibrancy, sometimes it's accuracy, usually it's a bit of both
    – Dre
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 18:43
  • And for what it's worth, if a printer only accepted JPGs I would avoid them like the plague; it's not a format suited for quality printing. The only thing it's got going for it is speed and convenience, which makes me question the printer's pre-press and QC. If it's vector based artwork you should be supplying PDF, EPS or AI files to the printer.
    – Dre
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 18:49
  • @Dre Note that a printer is not cheap if you need to work many more prints and are unhappy with the results. A new print run cheap or not usually costs more than one run right the first time.
    – joojaa
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 18:49
  • It's a trial and error process as well as giving the printer a real world color match, Pantone. An added note Green is one of those colors that's a pain to reproduce in a CMYK process. Follow Dre's answer. You will pay more for a real offset printer than Staples or some cheap internet only printer. Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 1:14

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