Logo not looking the same on screen?

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 3 seconds

No matter how happy you are with the colours and design of your company logo, when it comes to displaying it on screen or printing it out you will always find yourself at the mercy of technology. Unfortunately computers cannot see as humans do, and can only function in a mathematical rather than a logical way, using the raw data fed into them. This is why you often find that colour designs and logos look completely different on screen and in print versus the way in which you would expect to see them in real life.

Logo vector-v-raster

CMYK Model

When we work with colour on a white background, much as a painter paints on white canvas or paper, we talk of a subtractive colour model. The colours are said to be subtractive because individually they subtract light from the white background. The primary ink colours used in most colour printing procedures are cyan, magenta and yellow, combinations of which create a wide spectrum of colours and shades. The use of this particular group of colours together is well known in the world of printing as the CMYK colour model; for various reasons, black or ‘key’ is also used, and this represents the letter ‘K’ in the four letter acronym.

RGB Model

The RGB colour model, in contrast, works in the opposite way and is known as an additive colour model. In this model, red, green and blue light are projected onto a black background, thereby ‘adding’ light to black rather than subtracting light from white. Superimposing these colours of light together at different intensities will actually produce white light. Most people will be familiar with the RGB colour model if they have ever looked closely at a TV screen; it is in fact clusters of tiny red, blue and green components that make up pixels in all kinds of electronic input and output devices including digital cameras, mobile phones and scanners.

The Pantone Model

Anybody who has worked with colour matching in the world of interior design, fashion or graphics will be familiar with the set of industry standard colours developed by Pantone, the authority on colour around the world. As a company they have spent 40 years continually researching changing trends in colour and not only issued industry standard colour swatches, but also generated colour forecasts for companies in the FMCG sector and the dynamic world of fashion.

The Resultant Differences in the logo

The real reason why your logo will look different on screen is due to variations in the gamut range between your computer monitor and where you see the logo on other devices or media such as printed paper. The gamut range is simply the range of colours that your device is able to display, or produce as output, in the case of a printer. The full range of colour in the RGB model is less extensive than the CMYK colour range and by similar rules, the colours that you see in RGB on your computer screen may not be printable within the gamut range of your printing device.

Many devices and software packages now offer a conversion facility to allow the user to manipulate between RGB and CMYK, but until machines can manage the full range of 16.9 million colours that are visible to the human eye, colour representation will never be an exact science. Add to this the complexities of different screen technologies (CRT, LCD, Plasma) and the myriad of graphics cards used in different computers and other devices and you can sometimes be left wondering how they all manage to display black and white consistently. Until you put them side by side and realise that they don’t!


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