Our digital press is really awesome, and we love the high-quality product it puts out. But once in a while, a project has a color that does not print as expected. This is avoidable once you understand the principles.  

Help! The colors in my PRINTED proof or product are duller than I expected 😮 OR Help! The colors in my email proof are weirdly vivid 🤔

Here’s what’s going on.

ISSUE: DULLER colors than expected when printed 

This happens when the colors in your art are too vivid for print.

They may be in the RGB (screen) format instead of the CMYK (print) format. This is a problem only in the really vivid range but will still make a visible difference at times.

Printing uses a combination of CMYK inks similar to what you have with an inkjet printer. There is a range of vivid screen viewing colors not possible to create in print with those pigments, no matter how you combine them 🙁 

The good news is you can still use contrast of light / dark, bright / dull, and large / small to make your designs effective and eye-catching.


  1. Adjust the colors in your source document to optimize it.
  2. Choose different images or graphic colors.  
  3. Worst case, accept that a really vivid green or blue may not print the way you see it.
  4. For a CD or DVD project, or a big print project, get a physical proof. This may add a little extra cost for print projects but can prevent surprises.

ISSUE: MORE VIVID colors in an email proof🌈

When we save a proof PDF, sometimes the colors actually get MORE vivid. Some PDF proofs have RGB format (for viewing ) rather than CMYK (for printing). RGB shows more vivid colors.

Screen display will often vary wildly anyway, from phone to phone to computer to tablet. Even if our source document is in print mode, the colors may convert in the PDF. We try to avoid this, but it happens sometimes due to the mysteries of computers …  


  1. Give us a call. We can often take a quick look and answer your question immediately.  
  2. Ask for a PDF proof saved with “Print” settings.

And with large print jobs — and especially with CD/DVD orders — get a physical proof when time allows. There may be a small fee, but nothing compared with having an entire order come out “wrong.”

We’d always rather you asked us a question than just assume. You’re the expert at what you do. Let our experience help you with print issues.

Do you have a new CD project coming up?

If you’re doing the designing, see our template page for templates and guidelines. If you’d like our artists to take charge, give us a call to get started!

540-635-4181  mike@nationalmediaservices.com