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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Quiambao-Flores

It’s supposed to be purple, not navy.

I was working with a client who wanted some t-shirts printed up and the art they provided was a jpeg, with decent resolution (<- another post coming soon). Personally, I’m not a fan of printing JPEGS because if needed adjusting the color isn’t a quick click and would take time to modify. So, the proof is emailed (noting that the color representation on screen may look different than the DTG [Direct to Garment] print due to the color process and we are not liable etc.), approved and sent to production. The client comes to pick up the order, looks are one shirt – it’s wrong, it’s horrible, it’s supposed to be purple, not navy…Oye, here we go. – Explaining to someone who doesn’t understand what the difference is between the way we see color, printing processes and why they look different etc. isn’t an easy task – but I like a challenge.

To start. From a young age we learn about our primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. Why you ask? Easy, peasy answer – these 3 cannot be created from mixing either of the 2 other colors. So, tell me what happens when you mix: red + blue or Blue + yellow or yellow + red? We get our secondary colors: purple, green, orange and it continues from there. Perfect for finger painting or die-hard artists.

Unfortunately, that’s not that way it works for everything else…which will become a post for another day – but a quick explanation from the experience above.

  1. Our Computer Monitor = RGB: Red - Green - Blue

  2. DTG T-Shirt Print = CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow + Key (Black)

Purple = Magenta + Cyan or Red + Blue =

In CMY, it would be 100% Magenta, 80 - 90% Cyan + minimal yellow and black depending on shade.

Navy = Cyan + Magenta or Blue + Red=

In CMY, it would be 100% Cyan, 80 - 90% Magenta + some yellow and black depending on shade.

Do you see the problem? Both levels are soooo close to each other in the color mix that it can be a tough call for someone to tell the difference especially if looking at a bright vibrant color on screen vs a color that has been converted to CMY for printing.

When an image is being viewed on a monitor it will look brighter than when it is printed. Think of it this way, if your in Microsoft word creating some really neat looking word art and you select that super brilliant eye squinting lime green - what happens when you print it? You can try it now if you want, but more than likely you're seeing the green on the left (RGB) on your screen and something more like the green on the right (CMY) on the paper. Why is that? Like stated before, we are looking at 2 totally different color methods/processes.

The other item to consider is that the material can also affect how the print looks. It can literally change from page to page. The more porous a material is, the more dull the print will look as the material absorbs the ink. A harder high gloss material won't have the same effect.

Well in this case, we were printing their art on a 100% White Cotton T-Shirt, and I will let you guess what happened...Yup. The ink absorbed into the fabric and looked more dull and saturated than 1. what the monitor showed and 2. what it would have looked like printed on a glossy piece of paper. So when it was printed it looked a little like this...Same color, same file 2 different color models. Left monitor color, right (as close to) printed color.

All in all, I of course spent the extra time modifying the art work so that their order could be reprinted to meet their expectations as close as possible.

The lesson here, just because it looks super bright on the monitor or your phone, there is a very good chance it might not look the same when printed. I'm glad that the customer was happy about the reprinted order but because of this I will forever fear having to print a file with a purple that has too much blue in it. x stephanie Want to know more about color? About Printing? About Merch/Swag? Lets talk! email me: or schedule a general conversation < here or creative consult < here.

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