Chapter 3

Print Colors

Color Space Print on Demand

The printing color range is more limited than what you will see on your computer screen. Vivid print colors won’t come through exactly, so be careful about making vibrancy a central part of your design ideas.

We accept files with various color spaces, but our system does all operations in red, green, and blue (RGB). If you upload a cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) file, be aware that our system will convert it to RGB and the colors might shift significantly.

Our print providers convert the design files to the appropriate color space and profile depending on their process. Please be aware that physical printing limitations cannot produce the full range of RGB spectrum.


Here is an example of a common issue in the way a computer will display your design, and how the garment will look once printed when it comes to color consistency in printing and publishing across the web.

RGB vs CMYK Print On Demand

If you have created your design in RGB, you can preview how that design might look printed when converted to CMYK. This will give you an approximate idea of the color shift. In the future, we will have this functionality built into our product generator, but for now, this is an easy way to check how the final result might look.

This is super important for those who prefer using more exotic, flashy, or stand-out print colors – those bright bits may have the exact same color on a product as it does on a screen.

Print Color Combinations and Most Frequent Errors

  • Different print providers have different workflows for creating their products.
  • White designs can not be printed on Natural/Vintage Tote Bags, the process won’t allow this.

Print Provider Equipment

It’s important to also keep in mind that different Print Providers use different equipment. This can sometimes mean different results in color fidelity, especially when it comes to Print Providers who offer AOP (All-Over-Print) designs.

For example, many of the blank items used – such as tees, leggings, hoods, etc. – are white by default and are then printed on with your colors and designs. As the garment itself is white, putting a pitch-black color or design on top, may sometimes translate to a gray/ charcoal gray tone.

Why? This is due to the black ink not being able to fully penetrate white fabric, therefore bringing down the black tone’s opaqueness. In short, the white fabric still shows through the black ink and makes for a more translucent black tone- aka, gray.

Note. While the black color might be affected the most, this effect slightly applies to all colors, so keep that in mind when designing AOP products.

Shades of Blue

Different shades of blue that are similar to purple tones can be printed as purple shades and vice versa due to color converting. If your design is too warm, bright and you’re worried about the final print when it comes to your blue shades, try adjusting the colors accordingly on your software.

Colors – Human Eye vs Computers

When it comes to color (and especially print colors), people, computers, and printers view things differently. If these three perspectives don’t line up correctly, an end product’s print colors will look different from that same item on a computer screen.

The human eye can comprehend a clearly defined range of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum – known as ‘visible light’. This essentially equates to the colors of the rainbow.

When it comes to physics, both white and black are not considered to be legitimate colors; white is the presence of all visible wavelengths, while black is their complete absence/absorption by a particular surface.

Computers, on the other hand, are programmed to recognize various shades and tints relative to individual print color compositions of red, green, and blue (RGB). Finally, printers use yet another identification system: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK).

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

The electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) is the nomenclature used by scientists when referring to all light that exists. The spectrum is composed of fluctuating waves of magnetic and electric fields that have the capacity to transfer energy over locations – this transference effect can be experienced as heat, a sunburn, turning into the hulk (gamma decay), etc.

The whole range of the EMS is divided into various sections (radio waves, microwaves, infrared (IR), visible light, ultraviolet (UV), and gamma rays), depending on a wave’s wavelength: the distance between the crests of two waves – measured in nanometers.

An easy way to conceptualize the entire phenomenon is by picturing a rainbow. Instead of the dispersion of light stretching from violet to red in the normal (visible light) spectrum, there are additional (invisible) rainbows stretching beyond in both directions that correlate to both larger and smaller wavelengths.

A Computer’s Colors (RGB)

Computers don’t interpret the entire range of ‘visible’ light. While this is theoretically possible, certain technological limitations prohibit a computer from having the same scope as the human eye. So, while a person might see a certain shade of color, a computer will have a slightly downgraded visualization of the same.

This can be explained by understanding that computers use an ‘additive’ system which combines red, green, and blue (RGB) together to form the desired print color. Even while the computer itself holds an inferior version, the perfect print colors are still emitted from the screen in the shade our eyes are familiar with.


RGB vs CMYK Printed Products

Print Colors (CMYK)

When someone creates a design or uploads a piece of artwork with various print colors, that picture is stored in computer software as RGB. However, that RGB format must be translated into CMYK before the design in question can be printed. This is because, instead of a screen projecting various print colors, the tints we perceive on a garment are only the reflected wavelengths of visible light.

Embroidery Colors (Threading)

Design Guide Embroidery Printify

In addition to raw printing capabilities, some products are capable of supporting embroidery. This means that a creator’s design will appear on their final products – but will be created from colorful thread, rather than ink. This is a popular option for those seeking a finished item with a different visual (and texture).

To make sure that your embroidered items come out as fresh as printed ones, please see our complete embroidery guide here. As threading is a bit less malleable than ink, consider using designs that match these quick tips.

  • Use large designs: Big, bold designs are the best contenders here. Furthermore, avoid using small, overly detailed designs. If simplifying a design isn’t an option, perhaps consider switching back to ink.
  • Consider the proper colors: This refers to not including too many different colors within one design. We recommend a maximum of 16.
  • Align with design placements: Sometimes, a design looks great on the computer but won’t translate onto a real product well. To Dodge this pitfall, analyze your designs for small areas of dead space (gaps, holes, etc.). Once identified, these locations can be filled in with color to make the final design appear sharper.
  • Mind the background cropping: Your design will be digitized to cover the available embroidery space. If your design includes a large background, please be aware that this area will likely be cropped.
  • Use a quality check: No customer wants a washed out or poor-quality final product. To make sure things look as good in real life as they do on a computer screen, the easiest way is to use high-resolution images, designs, and artwork.
  • Proper digitization: This is the process through which a machine takes your artwork, then converts it into an embroidery format for sewing onto a product. The creation of one of these stitch files can take up to two days – especially for designs with lots of small details.
Fantastic Job Learning About Print Colors. Level up to the Next Section About DPI!

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