How To Color Match For Print On Demand

How To Color Match For Print On Demand

If you are looking to get into print on demand, but have some concerns about getting colors perfect, this article is for you.  We will walk you through the step by step process of how to match colors to get the exact colors you want.  But before we jump in, let's get some context.  You can refer to this article about the possible problems with how colors work on digital screens vs. real life.

What is Color Matching For Print On Demand?  

Color matching is a process where you test print digital artwork to see how the colors translate from digital to the real world, then update your file in order to produce your desired color in the physical world.  

Who should be concerned about color matching?

For the most part, 99%+ of people and brands should not be super concerned with color matching as they get started and want to grow.  You should only consider color matching if you are required to match colors to a specific PMS color set for a given artwork.  This can happen if you own licenses and your licensor requires a specific PMS color for their artwork.  Alternatively, if you are an established brand with very rigid brand standards you may also feel it's in the best interest of the brand to ensure specific colors are always used and the goal is to reduce variation (Coca Cola Red for example).  Keep in mind that color matching does take time and some investment on your side, so it's important to balance the costs and benefits for yourself.

When Should I Color Match?

Before you jump into color match a piece of artwork for a garment, it's always best to order a sample upfront so you can evaluate if your colors are close enough to what you expect.   Since print on demand uses direct to garment printing, finished colors are typically pretty close to the colors you expect.  We think you will be pleasantly surprised and you will typically get the colors you are expecting.  Once you see the sample, you can determine for yourself and in most cases color matching won't be required.

However, it's possible your artwork may contain a large amount of a color that doesn't translate from the digital space to the real world well.  In this case, it maybe best to color match your artwork to try to get a closer finished product.  

Tools For Color Matching

The tools for color matching are pretty basic, they typically are the substrate (like a t shirt) you want to print on and a color reference guide that has a swath of colors with associated RGB values.  You are welcome to use the Apliiq Color Matching file attached at the bottom of this article, or you can use any file that has a bunch of different RGB colors that are easily identified and cross referenced.

Process For Spot Color Matching

  1. As we noted before color matching starts with ordering a sample of your item to evaluate if the colors are what you expect.
  2. If the colors are not what you expect, we recommend you upload our color reference guide to the exact product (color too) and order a sample.
  3. Find the color that is closest to your desired color on the printed color reference chart.  
  4. Cross reference back to that color in your graphic design software to see the RGB value of that color.
  5. Update your artwork file to use the new RGB value.  Create a new saved design and order another sample.

Process To Improve Vibrancy For Photo Realism

If you are using a file that doesn't have spot colors, but instead has thousands or millions of colors that blend together, it will be very difficult if not impossible to spot color correct.  Instead it's best to apply image wide changes.  For example, if the print looks to faded, you may want to bump up the saturation of your file significantly.  A clever graphic designer may want to bump up the color in different sections of the print, to create a test print, for example,+25%, +50%, +75%, +100%, then order a test print.  This will allow you to see many possible outcomes in a single test print to select which one you like best.

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