I was preparing a lesson for new designers about "How to make print ready files?" and I wanted to add some historic facts about the greatest and most expensive print mistakes—something interesting to help them take their job more seriously. So I went to Google and found some interesting examples, but unfortunately they all seem to be about spelling mistakes.

Are there any famous print mistakes that happened because of a color error? Something like a big brand having to reprint their material just because of a color mismatch, color profile error, or incorrect pantone that cost them a very large amount of money.

  • Very interesting question but I am not sure if companies / brands provide such information since it wouldn’t be really good for their image... :)
    – elegent
    Mar 28, 2016 at 20:06
  • Zaitoun, if you didn't find it on google, chances are you wont find it anywhere alse. As "elegant" said, companies / brands don't provide such information since it wouldn’t be good for their image. But I have seen many mistakes made by print/production people during my career as creative. You can ask around your friends in the industry and use their experiences for your lecture.
    – Dude1
    Mar 29, 2016 at 4:11
  • You may find it quite difficult to find one related to colour as they tend to be fixed quite quickly through the proofing process. Stamps are likely to be your best bet. The most famous error that I can think of that costs a whole nation was the 2000 election ballot error, highlighting the requirement for testing: palmbeachpost.com/news/news/…
    – Bagseye
    Mar 29, 2016 at 9:50

3 Answers 3


I don't know about historical. I'll just post own experience.

Nike magazine

We were making a magazine for Nike about some runners. There was a photo of one, which previously used Adidas...

Fortunately the small logo was discovered on the first magazines binded, so we only needed to repeat that sheet of paper.


One client wanted to be a smarty pants, and after a design was provided to him, he wanted to save some dollars on the arragement on the sheet of paper.

Instead of having January and fliping the page February, etc, he got January, December. He lost all his project.

Fliping colors

This was a press issue, in the times that you used negatives instead of direct to plate. On one sheet they fliped cyan with magenta...

A computer bug

One time, when generating a PDF, the computer totally droped one photo and swiched it for another photo of the same page with diferent proportions...

Overprint on

Once I sent one file with a black zone over a photo, covering it. As I'm used to ask for balck overprint, the photo showed as a gohst.

As it was printed on a 2 head machine all the paper was already printed with the first colors. It was solved using 2 passes of black.

Historical mistakes can probably be found on stamps or bills, or trading cards.

  • 1
    Thank you, Rafeal. But I don't think those examples would help me. First of all most of your examples are not related to color. Secondly you've been a good man and saved the day in each incident. Thirdly you you didn't mentioned how much money did you -or your client- lost in those positions. Which I doubt to be a lot. Those kinds of mistakes happen all the time. Mar 28, 2016 at 11:38

Adding one more experience:

Be very careful about whether white background on photo is really 100% white.

Our client give us main photo for a campaign. Girl model on white background. We used it and prepare some materials (flyers, posters, clothes hangtags, etc ). Design was simple: white paper, this photo on white background, typo, logo. We sent it via e-mail in PDF to client. Client was happy with our work so we sent it to final print. (Without any test printing.)

BUT what?! Sh*t happens. That white background on photo wasn't truly white. There were lot of pixels with about 3-5% of yellow. This can't be seen on any computer display, but good printers print this out. So finally on print were parts white like snow and background around photo was dirty/old yellow. :(( (Guy behind the printer thought its by design kinda art or something.. so he let it be and print it.)

I was bad :/.

Real example of photo background color vs white. Can you see a difference?: enter image description here

Simulation how it was printed. (Actually I couldn't see any difference on my EIZO monitor): enter image description here

So IF some photo looks like its on white background, recheck it IF its REALY 100% WHITE or you can got a problem :)

  • 1
    Yeah the human eye is adaptive so when your entire view is filled by the color you dont see the problem. Also sometimes the color gamut of the color corrector plays a trick on you.
    – joojaa
    Apr 4, 2016 at 12:49
  • Well, I can see the direfence in my not that expensive monitor Xo)
    – Rafael
    Apr 7, 2016 at 20:34
  • @Rafael: Shure, NOW I can see it here too. :] And YEAH, We are here discussing epic print fails :] And this really was. I should at least check a yellow plate in CMYK color separation in Acrobat, it could highlight my problem. Apr 13, 2016 at 14:17

Despite about 4 sets of proof readers and the client signing off I once managed to have two 21st's on a notes section of a calendar... which wasn't noticed until every one of the 12 A3 pages where printed (it appeared on each page of the calendar) and hand collated ready to be spiral bound... I was physically sick when I realised that about 6 pallet loads of paper and days of work would have to be redone.. :(

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