Colors: Web Vs. Print
Color is always an important part of a brand. When you are working through the branding process as a company you spend a portion of that time choosing the color. There is a whole school of thought devoted to the psychology of color. We won’t spend time talking about color theory or psychology in this article. Instead, we want to talk about how to best handle color when dealing with web and how it differs from print.
Traditional Printing and Color
Using color in printing can be a tricky issue. Each printing device operates differently on a mechanical level. These differences in mechanical operation can cause the output of the document to look different from one device to another. This can be frustrating when you are trying to establish a brand that doesn’t change and will be recognized easily. As an answer to this, the printing industry uses Pantone colors. The Pantone color matching system has been adopted by most print equipment manufacturers to ensure the output is consistent across all equipment. This way, when you take your brochure with your logo to a new printer, you can expect the output to be the same.
What is Pantone?
PANTONE® is the standard language for color identification and communication and the worldwide expert on color.
What is CMYK?
CMYK refers to four-color process printing, using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks. When a client references CMYK, they are referring to the Process palette.
What is the different between Spot and Process color?
Solid or "Spot" colors are printed with a single color, using a Pantone solid color ink.
Process colors are printed using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks, on a four-color Process printing press or digital press.
Viewing On-Screen Colors
Viewing colors on-screen creates a whole different set of issues as opposed to print media. Unlike print media where you are controlling the output of your materials through a single source, video colors are completely dependent on the client computer’s video card and settings. There is no Pantone color matching system when viewing on-screen. As a designer, it is impossible for me to take your Pantone color and include it in your design. Even if it looks correct on your screen it won’t on others. Here is a short list of some factors that play in to how colors are displayed on the viewers screen:
LCD (flat screen) vs. CRT (traditional tube) monitor;
Color settings on the machine (16, 32, 64, 128, 256, millions of colors);
Quality of video card on the client machine;
Quality of monitor;
Operating system (gamma control);
Browser view of your site.
You, as the provider of the information, have no control of these settings. In fact, that is inherently one of the benefits of the web. Users can and will view your site however they choose.
Now days, with computers able to display more colors these become less of an issue. However, we still are unable to achieve a perfect match to a Pantone color. We do our best to get as close as we can.
So What Is the Answer to Web Colors?
If any designer is worth their salt you will get a site that uses colors effectively and hold true to your brand. Though it wouldn’t be a good idea to hold up a printed document next to the screen and check it. Users of your site will hardly tell the difference. Just keep in mind that the web media isn’t print media and shouldn’t be held to the same standards.