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The Colour Challenge

Colour Matching

At the Silk Bureau we are often asked;

“Why aren’t the colours exactly the same as the ones I see on my monitor when I’m designing?”

computer image colour

There are many reasons why colours may appear a little different to those you have designed with. The most obvious difference of course is that your monitor emits light and a printer just uses dyes and pigments. Basically, you can’t print light!

To explain further, the gamut of the printer is smaller than the array of colours you see on a back-lit monitor. Certain colours/tones will be beyond the capabilities of the dyes and out of the printer’s achievable colour gamut. A computer monitor can display over 16 million colours where as a printer will offer thousands of colours, made up by combining a small number of coloured dyes.


colour gamut diagram



This diagram shows the gamut of visible colours. Note the area a Generic Printer can achieve and the sRGB and Adobe RGB colour profiles that you may typically choose in your artwork. The triangular areas show millions of colours you can see on your screen and compares it to the achievable printer colours.

The larger area is what we refer to as ‘out of gamut’, and will therefore print colour differently to how you see them on screen.

Colours will differ as the printer tries to match the closest colour to that selected in the artwork outside of it’s gamut. 

The colour picker in Photoshop enables you to pick any colour from within the monitor profile, with no regard to what is actually achievable on the printer.   


AVA logoAll our printers have bespoke profiles written by AVA CAD/CAM, who are  specialists in the management of colour for the textile printing industry. They ensure that we can achieve optimum colour results appropriate for each of our printers and the inks we use. 

Your monitor will be set up differently to ours.  Our monitors and printers are calibrated very precisely, to show us on screen how your design will print. So please be aware that what you see on your monitor is unlikely to be what we see on ours. You can view the same file on two different computers and see two different colours. That is why if you go into any TV shop you will see all the TV screens display differently. 

The fabric’s colour will also have an effect on the colours of your printed design. When looking on screen you will see a digital version of your colours on a light value of RGB (Red, Green, Blue) 255,255,255 which appears bright white. Our fabrics are often ivory, cream or off-white, none of which are the same as your monitor. Please remember that any white areas in your design will be the natural colour of the fabric, as we do not have a white dye. The process involved in printing the fabrics dramatically affects the final results. When printing on fabrics the dyes penetrate into the weave, rather than sitting on the surface. Once printed the fabric passes through a steamer where the dyes are fixed. The fabric must then be washed. It is during this process that the unfixed dye will be removed. This makes accurate colour matching extremely difficult to predict, as all fabrics are constructed differently, i.e. weave, weight, amount of dye absorbed, etc. 

RGB_imageColours can react differently depending on the colour they are positioned next to. For example; a Yellow next to a Blue may look a little Green where they connect. The same Yellow might look more Orange if it were placed next to a Red. Be aware of how your colours interact with each other.

Only by testing colours on the fabric you wish to use can you get a more accurate idea of the final printed outcome of your designs. We do recommend that before you order any production printing you should carry out testing of the colours from your artwork on the fabric you would like to use. This can be done by creating a file of coloured chips, or by printing a cropped area of your file. 

For more testing and sampling ideas please visit our ‘Good to know’ website page and select the ‘How to create a Sample Template’ tip.