Color System : Influence with different output technology (Part 2)

Color System : Influence with different output technology (Part 2)

Learning level:- Basic

Learning time :- 30 minutes

This article is the second part of Color System. If you haven’t read first part of this article please read first part here >> Color System : Additive and Subtractive (Part 1). In previous part, I’ve briefly described that why the color toning looks slightly different in paper than electronic monitor. The main reason of that problem is different color system used in those two different Medias. Now in this article, I’m telling you more fundamental reasons associated with different color output. I’ll shortly describe about color influence with different output technology.

Reason 1 : Backlight Vs Source Light

Electronic monitors are made with million pixels. When the power is ON, all the pixels are lit by backlight. The backlight is generated by CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp) or LED (Light-Emitting Diode) light system and color is white. There is also Liquid crystal behind every pixel. Continuous backlight comes to actual pixel passing through the Liquid crystals. Every pixel has 3 sub-pixels (Red, Green and Blue). Different colors are displayed by the pixels, it’s depended on output data processing from CPU of Electronic devices.

If we do not change the brightness and contrast of LCD monitors they always display same level of brightness. We always see same level of brightness and color brightly until we change display settings. Sometime display color is influenced by indoor light color and room wall color in the evening or night. In day time, that is influenced by room wall color and curtain color of windows because outside light is reflected few amount from the color walls or light passes through the color curtain.

On the other hand, paper print always highly influenced by outer lights because the prints cannot be visible without other source of light. It cannot be seen in dark room without light. We know that there are different colors of light in single day. In the morning, mid-day and evening the color is changed naturally. 
In the room people use different types color paints on the wall and lights, such as bulb, CFL or tube light. Thus, the paper prints always highly influenced by indoor and outdoor colorful light source.

Reason 2 : RGB Vs CMYK color space

In digital technology there are many types of color generate system but here we are focusing only on RGB and CMYK color system. RGB color system can produce much more colors than CMYK color system because RGB system has bigger color space. CMYK color system cannot produce as much brighter color as RGB system.

A major reason is already described, RGB color system is used in electronic monitor which has bright and continuous backlight. CMYK colors used in printing media and the papers have usual nature of absorption few percentage inks.

Reason 3 : RGB laser exposure Vs Inkjet printing system

There are two kinds of printing machines used in color photo lab or printing service center, Laser exposure and Inkjet system. Laser exposure is looks same as old type film (film roll) developing and printing system. Laser printing machine receives the photo data from computer then print the paper scanning exposure system through RGB laser Lights. Three RGB color lasers play the vital role in color photo printing process. The paper used in this kind of printing system is vast different than used in inkjet printing system. The paper is made with photographic emulsion (photographic chemical) coated and they are kept in light sealed (total black) packet until they are used in printing process. Paper exposing, developing, fixing and drying all are same with Film photo printing system. Laser printing machines does not need extra inks like in inkjet print machines.

Inkjet printing machine used in color lab looks like exposure system machine but little smaller. They use almost same printing process as we use home inkjet printing machine. They do not use photographic emulsion coated paper so inkjet printing machine need CMYK inks for printing paper. Four color inks sprayed separately onto the normal photo-paper and made a final print. Laser exposure machine and emulsion coated paper both are very expensive on the other hand inkjet printer and normal paper are very cheaper. Overall color labs (cheaper photo services centers) use inkjet printing process. They use mini lab printing system, overall mini lab machines based on inkjet system.

This way, the prints look different, printed with RBG laser and CMYK inkjet printing system. One major drawback of laser printing machine is the machine cannot print larger prints than 12 inch paper width. To print larger than 12 inch paper there is no other way instead of using large size inkjet printing system.

Reason 4 : Types of Paper

Generally there are two types of photo-paper for printing photos. Glossy and Matte paper are most well-known in photographic field. The physical characteristics of Glossy paper are smooth surface and shining ability, unlike this, Matte papers have rough surface and less shining ability characteristics than Glossy paper. Both have good and bad characteristics in photographic field.

Just concentrating on the subject of this article, I would like to inform this, one very important characteristic of Matte paper is absorption of color and ink. Matte papers absorb more color and ink than glossy paper. Having the characteristics of rough surface, less shining ability and absorption color ink, the image printed on matte paper looks a little bit dimmer than glossy paper. Less or more, the amount of absorption obviously affects the brightness of color and saturation.


Now, reading this article you understood some new reason why we see slightly different color and brightness in paper print than electronic monitor. Here I’d like to give 3 suggestions.

i) Before being unsatisfied with your home printer you need adjust color and brightness setting of home printer with your working monitor. Likewise, before expressing your anger with color photo printing service center you need set proper brightness and color level in your monitor. Change settings of your printer and make some test prints until your printer produce satisfactory image matching colors with your monitor. Make some test prints also from photo printing service center where you usually go to print. Do not forget to tell the printer person of the Lab that your print is testing purpose so do not further change brightness and color….. Print them with normal setting. Match your monitor and test print then re-adjust your monitor setting with test prints if needed.

ii) Never expect brightness and color saturation in your print as much as you see in your monitor. If your prints meet 85% with monitor that is enough.

iii) Replace your old CRT or normal LCD monitor with LED monitor. LED monitor has true white backlight than normal LCD monitor and does not need adjust color level and temperature. One more I have to say here, If you already using LED monitor, check up once your monitor setting. If there is Smart Contrast option it’s better to turn off Smart Contrast option. Some monitors don’t have Smart Contrast option. Do not leave default brightness, contrast and sharpness to default. Almost people leave them to default, that is very big mistake because LED monitors have very much brightness level and contrast ration in default setting. Always adjust brightness, contrast and sharpness level manually and set all parameters to 60 or 65 percentage. Before adjusting manual you must turn off Game mode too.  Give me your feedback, Enjoy!             


Ruman Shrestha

Ruman Shrestha

Hello! Professionally I’m photographer, Photoshoper, Illustrator and graphic designer. I had taken photography training with Photojournalism in 1996. I’m self-learned Photoshoper and Illustrator. I'm fully freelancer. I love to learn new tools of Photoshop and Illustrator then create various kinds of artwork and vector graphics in my free time. On long days vacation, I would like to travel and trek high-altitude area to celebrate my leisure time. I’ve deep interest in Nature photography. Landscape and Wildlife are my favorite subjects. Moreover, I like also birding and bird’s photography. I'm general member of 'Bird Conservation Nepal' too. I am the founder of TutsGallery. I’ve founded this website to share my knowledge and experience to new generation in photography. I hope, you’ll like this. If you also like to contribute such kind of knowledge and experience, I request you, start from today and contact me. Let’s enjoy photographing!

Follow Me: