Selecting colors for printing


The other day I decided to design my own business cards and send them to be printed. Last night I
received them and to my surprise some text and textures are not visible I guess it is because I used
very light colors, like light gray.

1- Is there some sort of safe colors for printing?
2- What are the basic guide-lines you should follow when designing your business cards (choosing colors)?
3- what’s the smalles font size that can be used for printing and still be visible (using standard fonts like verdana)?

I’m looking for tips in selecting the right colors for printing purposes.

Thanks a lot

Did you use cmyk mode?
Is your monitor accurately calibrated?
What DPI did you design at (should be 300dpi or higher)?

I’m assuming the colours looked ok on your screen in the application you used to design your card, but did not look ok on the printed card.

Colour matching can be a headache. First of all, have a look at the colour profile setting in both your application and computer screen. They should be the same. Then ask your printing provider what colour profile their printer uses. For printing purposes your compute/application colour profile should be the same or very close to your printer’s colour profile.

Also, for printing puposes, your image file should be at least 300ppi. PPI (pixels per inch) and DPI (dots per inch) are not the same thing although many use them interchangeably.

Finally, fwiw I use the sRGB colour space for my computer screen and image editing software and the colours on prints from my printing provider are very, very close to what I see on my screen.

As EastCoast says, you need to be using CMYK colors, and don’t rely on what you see on the screen. The ideal is to get a printed color guide (they often look like a Japanese fan, with think pages that fan out) that has all of the CMYK colors on it with their codes. Kind of like the color guides you see in a paint shop. Then you know what color you are really getting. They can be quite expensive, though. Or your printer might have a simple version of this on a big sheet of paper.


I don’t use CMYK and I don’t have any issues matching colours I see on my screen and the colours on prints as I described earlier.

Do you mean prints on your home printer or in a commercial shop, though? Sure, RGB can work fine on your home printer, but in my (admittedly limited) experience, commercial printers expect CMYK colors. The gamuts of RGB and CMYK don’t overlap very well, so it’s much safer to work with CMYK.

As I said

Finally, fwiw I use the sRGB colour space for my computer screen and image editing software and the colours on prints from my printing provider are very, very close to what I see on my screen.

my printing provider = a well known huge chain camera store.

I’m not an expert on colour matching. All I can do is descriibe my situation where I have no issues with matching colours on my screen and the colours on prints from my commercial printing provider.

Ah, I see. A camera store might be different, as they will be set up to print digital photos that are naturally RGB. The big printing houses that print things like books and magazines use ink machines that are by their nature CMYK colors, so it’s important to be working with CMYK colors from the beginning to dance nicely with those.

But the op didn’t say what type of printing provider they are using, so it’s not correct to say

you need to be using CMYK colors
if the op is using a camera store to print their cards. I use the camera store to print my cards, images and anything else I need (flyers etc).

OK, let me rephrase it then:

You need to be using CMYK colors if you are using a proper printer. :smiley:

EDIT: sorry, I’m just goading. Your point is fair enough.

But since the colours on the screen and prints/cards from camera store printer also match , why is the camera store printer not a “proper” printer?

edit: ok :slight_smile: then since goading is against the rules you can give yourself a slap on the wrist since you are a moderator as well :smiley:

Consider me duly slapped. (Hmm, I enjoyed that …)

I guess the thing to take away from this is to ask the printer what they require. Each seems to have different requirements, depending on what kinds of machines they use, what sorts of things they print, and what kind of paper they use. I had a stint a few years back using printers and this point was continually drilled into me.

As for the OP’s other question about font sizes, it again depends on what kind of machines the printer uses, so ask them what’s too small for them. Some really high-quality printers (for the really fancy print publications) can print very fine text accurately, but not all can. You’ve also got to consider the difficultly of a background color with colored print over the top. Some print machines print each color separately, so the background may be printed first, leaving space for the text to be printed next. Getting that to happen accurately is difficult, as there is usually some smudging (not the correct term, I know). The type of paper being used is also a factor. The more absorbent it is, the more the colors will run, resulting in a muddy mess.

yep agree :slight_smile:

That was going to be my next suggestion to the op after we finished our fencing duel :injured:

Thank you all for the good advice.

My computer monitor is calibrated; I usually try to match my monitor’s colors with a local print shop (Walgreens seems to be close to the colors I see on my computer) but for my business card I used VistaPrint an online print shop and as Ralph m. said they probably use CMYK as their primary color printers.

I used RGB (this is probably why the miss match colors), I will change my colors to CMYK (300dpi) and send them to be reprinted to see the difference.

Thanks a lot for your help.

Just be aware that your computer screen cannot represent CMYK colors, so you will have no idea what they will look like until the print has been done. So perhaps ask your print shop if they have a color printout to demo what the colors actually look like (or sneak into an art supplies shop and take a peek at their CMYK color guide.

Alternatively, perhaps ask the shop to do a single test print to make sure you are happy with the result. It’s a bummer to print a whole plie of cars and find they are no good.

Off Topic:

…plie of cars…

I like it :rofl:

Bit early in the morning to sipping the sherry isn’t it? :lol:

Off Topic:

If you had seen the wife hurrying me up to get ready for our regular Saturday morning cappuccino outing, you’d have more sympathy for my too-quickly-typed response. :slight_smile:

I hear you loud and clear :slight_smile:

Mustn’t keep "she who must be obeyed " :whip: waiting :injured: [/ot]

See my Color Tables, Pickers and Scheme Makers of Mon 19 Feb 2007 21:47:40 GMT. I then carefully selected tested tools for color (and screen measuring). Seems not outdated so far. TIA anyway to any update that would be useful.

Versailles, Sun 13 Nov 2011 03:34:15 +0100