I’m so glad that my clients trust me to handle their colors when it comes to printing and web display. A few days ago, I was asked to consult on this matter by a gentleman attempting to fix some color inconsistencies he had in some files he created himself. After our conversation, I felt compelled to write this post.

Output Matters

When it comes to graphics, colors have multiple potential outputs (eg. RGB, CMYK, Pantone), and it is common knowledge in the graphics industry that there is no guaranteed consistency between those various outputs. Digital devices and print substrates display colors differently, and we perceive them differently because of the way the light carries color to our eye.

Outputs Described


If you want guaranteed consistent colors for *printing*, that you have to determine your preferred pantone colors and use spot-printing only.  You will *not* get a guarantee with CMYK because CMYK printers need to be calibrated.  For example, I once requested printing of business cards that had the same CMKY values on the front and back, but because each side was a separate run, the colors were slightly different.  The only way to overcome that issue is to print with pantone colors.  However, pantone printing can get extremely expensive, so CMYK is the most popular for small businesses.

Keep in mind that pantones converted to CMYK are nothing more than CMYK.  If you decide to use CMYK printing, then abandon the search for pantones, select CYMK swatches instead, and save them to your CC Library for use moving forward.


Colors on your device are presented in the RGB color mode and will never be guaranteed when converted to print.  All devices are calibrated different from one another and simply cannot be expected to appear the same globally. Plus, RGB colors converted to CMYK may shift slightly, and even so, may appear slightly differently when printed.

Consistency in Graphics Files

If you need to achieve color consistency within your file and not printing, then simply set *global* swatches for each desired color. Decide which colors you want, assign the colors to your artwork, then “delete unused swatches” from your swatch palette so they don’t mix you up in the future.  You can use your magic wand tool to select the colors with close values, then assign the correct color to them from your palette.

Once you’ve nailed all your colors down, drag them into your Creative Cloud library for future use. 

Your Screen Matters

Also keep in mind that the angle from which you view your screen is a considerable factor.  The colors display differently on your particular laptop when you shift slightly to the left or right so I would never use it as a gauge.  I use an Asus ProArt monitor with sRGB (closest representation to print results 2nd to Adobe RGB). The colors are consistent when viewing from wider angles.

Need help?

As a graphics professional, I deal with colors and outputs every day.  Please reach out to me so I can assist with your project.  If you have basic questions, feel free to post them below in the comments. Thank you!