“My printed photos look different from the screen…What’s wrong?”

Well there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your photos, it is because what you see on the screen will almost definitely not be the same as what you will see printed. There are lots of causes for this and we don’t think we can have them listed down here one by one, but we can start with one of the main causes. The answer is in 13 letters, 4 syllables, 2 words: colour formats.

RGB vs CMYK Slide 1

To begin with, regardless the screen that you are looking at, laptop screens, computer screens, smartphone screens, tablet screens and etc, these digital screens run on RGB colour format. RGB colour format produces their colours with the combination of three colours which are Red, Green and Blue. Printed photos on the other hand runs on CMYK colour format, the combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black are the colours that produce what you see on your printed photo. For those who are familiar with Adobe softwares like photoshop and illustrator, these colour formats contrasts like night and day.

RGB vs CMYK Slide 2

Let’s go in a little further into these contrasting colour formats and maybe a little history into why they are the way they are. Back in the day before the digital era and even till now, printing materials like newspapers, billboards, poster flyers, school text books, dictionaries and etc are all printed using plates which carries the CMYK colours.

The technology that is involved behind the CMYK colours is that they use ink color dots to cover light wavelengths to produce the respective colours. It is safe to say that they are actually designed according to the inks that were produced. In contrast, RGB colours uses the brightness of LCD screens as a basis to produce the colours you see on screens. Some can also assume that RGB is the later and infinitely more advanced folk over CMYK.

RGB vs CMYK Slide 3

Other than the obvious difference between these two colour formats is that the colour combinations the respective format uses, the usage of these two colour formats are rather different. RGB colours are normally used for the display of emails, web banners, your home television; whereas on the other hand, CMYK fortes in the printing side of things such as posters, business cards and bill boards. All of these revolves on emphasising on the usage what these colour formats are good at.

Each colour format is used based on the media that is involved. RGB colour format produces optimum display when used for screens and basic home office printing as its media whereas CMYK colour format is better for photo processing and offset printing.

RGB vs CMYK Slide 4

While the RGB colour format works beautifully to the eyes on the screen, unfortunately it is not the format that is being used for photo book printing or any sort of photo printing. The good news is, however, that the latest printers like the ones we have at FotoZZoom, they can better cater to RGB colour formats by incorporating more colors into the printers. Instead of having the regular 4 colour CMYK printer, there are 6 color printers, 8 color printer and up to 12 color printing revolving on the simple idea that with additional inks, the variety of colours extends further which can better match the RGB colour format. At the moment, the closest we can get in terms of colour similarity between the two formats is approximately at 90% accuracy.

RGB vs CMYK Slide 5

As a conclusion to the most commonly asked question as to why what you see on screen look so different when they are printed, the answer is that they are both of different media using different colour format for display. Though it is a continuous challenge faced by photo printers like ourselves, to date we manage to bring the accuracy in colour conversion to a 90% similarity mark which is significantly higher than the industry average of 74%. To better view how your photos will look like when they are printed, you could however look at it by converting your photos into CMYK format to have a rough gauge. However, without properly tools to convert the colour formats, the colour accuracy still comes into question.

RGB vs CMYK Slide 6

We have prepared an infographic below for you reference, do link us by copy and pasting the link below if you like our guide here today.

Why Printed Photos Look Different From The Screen

We have prepared an infographic below for you reference, do link us by copy and pasting the link below if you like our guide here today.