I'm currently doing some graphic design for a client. We are trying to get the same color that he had on his last flyers. The old printer gave us the CMYK color C 71.25, M 12.54, Y 0, K 0

Unfortunately, Illustrator doesn't take two decimals after the dot, so it's really unclear what color it's going to be.

We got it printed with a different printing company, but the colors are just not the same. So is there a chance that the same colors look different when printed by different printer companies?

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3 Answers 3


I second the @joojaa's answer and would like to add that trying to match colors across different devices is really only feasible in a color calibrated workflow. I see a lot of small print shops that don't use a color calibrated workflow. Bottom line, in my experience (10 years in the industry), is: if color matching is important, use a color calibrated workflow and find a printer that uses and understands it.

About a year ago I created a swatch book (brand colors) for a client. My workflow is color calibrated and I have the experience to understand its pitfalls. However, when choosing printer I made a mistake. The printer would (without asking) manually edit the the cmyk values in his printer to match some color he thought looked better. When I noticed the colors were off I started asking about their workflow and realized this was common practice with them and they didn't have the faintest idea what a color calibrated workflow is about. I was pressed on time and would not change printer in the middle of the job so I worked with them and manually edited the cmyk values in the printer to match the color on my calibrated screen (target profile ISO Coated 300%). The end result was OK, but what a waste of time.

Printers should know color management. If not, choose someone else.

  • 1
    Dont use positional references as theres no guarantee that the answer above will in fact stay above for all users :)
    – joojaa
    Apr 29, 2016 at 7:46

All devices produce different colors with same values of CMYK! A cmyk value of x does not guarantee same color. So if you need the same color across devices then you need to have a fresh color profile associated with your device and the device needs to be calibrated. Only then will you know what the color is and can even attempt to come as close as possible.

So the question to you is what colorspace is that cmyk in. If you know this and have a profiled/calibrated printer then you can get as close as technology allows. But if you have a noncalibrated pipeline then all bets are off.

Same applies to monitors. The numbers alone do not define color. Without a colorspce definition they are meaningless. One could guess but then the colors would be only as accurate as the guess, that is not accurate at all.


A 0.25 or 0.54 difference in one ink in a process mix shouldn't make a difference, but if I were you I'd just round the values up/down. So you'll have C71 M13 Y0 K0.

As for the print result, there are a number of things you want to consider:

  • Does the new printer do the same type of printing? You might find that the old printer was using a HP Indigo machine, and the new one prints laser. They may have even printed offset. Just be aware you can get very different results from different styles of printing.

  • If the colour is way, way off what you supplied, you probably have recourse to request a reprint.

Otherwise, if matching a flat colour is super important, you may want to consider printing offset with spot (ie. Pantone) inks, which can be much more expensive in small volumes but will result in far more predictable colour reproduction.

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