I'm designing a website at the moment.
The client's corporate colour is PANTONE Black 2C (made up of 70% Black and 30% Yellow).

Now, when printed it comes out very dark but with a hint of yellow. Though, on screen it's considerably lighter and is actually quite a horrible colour.

I understand the reasons why it's lighter on screen, but obviously, I can't build the website with the same colours because it's not very nice and doesn't reflect the company colours in the correct way (despite it being the identical colour).

Does anyone know how to match the final printed colour to an on-screen colour in this way? Aside from photographing the printed material and eye-dropping it in Photoshop...

  • I'm surprised anyone would use such a colour as their main corporate colour. Seems to be asking for problems on anything that isn't CMYK (not just websites -- Powerpoint, Word etc).
    – e100
    Mar 23, 2012 at 14:03
  • it is asking for trouble! Hence the question! lol
    – Dan Hanly
    Mar 23, 2012 at 14:05
  • Somewhat linked: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/2189/…
    – e100
    Mar 23, 2012 at 14:09

3 Answers 3


Obviously there's no way to get or maintain a color match across multiple different screens whose calibrations are out of your control, but that's no reason not to try for a decent compromise.

My approach to this kind of situation with Pantone colors is to follow the Lab settings given for the swatch, then adjust by eye as needed.

In most cases, maintaining the hue is what "sells" the faux match, but the problem with PMS 2C has more to do with its value than its hue. By adjusting first the L channel to get it to the "right" darkness, then fine tuning using the saturation value in the HSB set, you can achieve something that gives you the right amount of contrast against its surroundings in your final composition.

You could do a lot worse than photographing the printed item and using the eyedropper, actually, so that's not at all a bad idea. Either approach will get you that acceptable compromise you're looking for.

  • +1 for supporting my photograph/eyedropper method! hah!. Thanks for the tips, I'll definitely use this.
    – Dan Hanly
    Mar 23, 2012 at 17:50

Really, I think the only answer is "you can't do that." It is just not possible to do "perfect color match " in the manner you are describing. You can spend months working on a solution, and my monitor will display a completely different black.

I have a dual monitor setup here with two differently branded monitors, both profiled using a colorimetric device. They do not display color nor contrast the same. I use the left one for soft proofing color images.

My mother-in-law's netbook and (more to the point) your corporate stakeholder's mother's monitor will show something completely different. Probably green.

So what to do? Simulate by eye based upon the intention of the color. Then use them consistently.

  • We originally branded this company, so from what your saying it'll need to be a consideration of the original brand guidelines; providing hex codes of colours for digital use.
    – Dan Hanly
    Mar 23, 2012 at 14:00
  • Yes. You'll need to do some research (try it on a range of horrible monitors) about "reliable" web colors that are close enough. The problem is that most of what we do that is based upon printing has a small set of moving targets we call "printing presses" which are professionally run, maintained and calibrated. Contrast this with monitors with no calibration, "home theater enhanZE Technology(tm)," and GPU based color and gamma adjustments, you will quickly see the need to embrace the chaos.
    – horatio
    Mar 23, 2012 at 14:11
  • p.s. test it on an iphone if you do nothing else. My grandmother has an iphone and she died in the 80s
    – horatio
    Mar 23, 2012 at 14:12

It would be very difficult to do this via photography if you do not have access to an extremely hi-fi super calibrated studio system, and even then, you'd probably play with curves and levels in photoshop to get to the perceived hue (which would annihilate the whole prior process).

I'd just use my eye sight to get to something similar using a standard monitor (which most people will use for viewing) and live with some aberrations. Make a few samples and let the customer decide.

  • For my birthday, I'm going to as Uncle Adobe for a button to do this automatically!
    – Dan Hanly
    Mar 23, 2012 at 13:28
  • I would also leave the final decision up to the client, but make sure they test in different lighting environments, on phones and iPads etc. so that they are aware of the difference it can make.
    – e100
    Mar 23, 2012 at 14:06

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