Getting Your Print to Look Like Your Monitor

Is there a way to guarantee color matching from computer monitor, to printer, to ink transfer paper, then to substrate? To answer the question honestly there is no guarantee that your finished piece will approximate what your monitor shows and what your printed sample looks like. But, with the right tools, we can get really close. Let me explain with a general overview.

sublimation color matching

Color matching was an issue during our octopus wall challenge. At the time we did not color match the blue we wanted on purpose to see what the outcome would be. What we got was a color that we liked so we were lucky. Yet, it still made us think about how important color matching is in the sublimation industry. So, we’re going to give you some tips on what color matching is and how to get great results.

sublimation color matching

What we’ve learned:

Color is not dependent on what the monitor shows. Why? Colors vary from monitor to monitor and from printer to printer. This means any color generated on printed pages are dependent on many variables like the color systems used, printer model and much more. Other production variables like the substrate, sublimation paper selection, pressing time, temperature and pressure all can change color dramatically.

Learn the details of these variables:

Monitors – Monitors and printers produce color differently. Computer monitors emit color as (RGB) Red, Green, Blue light. In design we take these colors and merge them to produce the needed color but the range is limited.

Monitor calibration – To ensure printers produce color correctly you need to calibrate your monitor to your color profile. This will allow you to preview the color and confirm your colors are correct.

Ink Paper– Unlike monitors, ink paper absorbs not in RGB, but reflects specific light wavelengths in colors and uses cyan, magenta and yellow pigments as filters. By subtracting varying degrees of red, green and blue from white light it will produce a selective gamut of spectral colors. This is why it so such a challenge to accurately convert from monitor to ink paper.

Printing Ink – Printing inks also produce a color gamut that is only a subset of the visible spectrum. However, the range is not the same for both monitors and ink which means artwork displayed on monitors may not match that on printed media. It is also important to note that digital printing processes use CMYK inks. Digital art which is RGB must be converted to CMYK color for print.

Ink Calibration – To ensure your ink produces the right spectrum of color you need to calibrate it or mix the color with the profile program. This will designate a specific shade of color to a matched color value. We recommend Sawgrass ink because not all inks are equal and Sawgrass is consistent.

Printer – Not all printers are equal. We do not recommend using regular printers because they tend to break easier because of sublimation ink is thicker. Printers made specifically for sublimation are the better choice because the ink heads can handle sublimation ink. We recommend Ricoh from Sawgrass or VJ 628 Printer.

Substrate – Substrates are the materials (Ceramic mugs, glass, cutting boards, stainless steel travel mugs) used during imprinting and each substrate has a different white point. A white point is the whiteness of a particular product and is a factor in color matching. In other words not all whites match on these substrates and each needs its own profile to get an accurate color.

Sublimation paper selection – Not all paper is equal. They all come in different qualities of thickness, and texture. To request samples, visit our sub paper options. Some heat paper cooks faster so you can risk overheating, burning and blurring images.

Cook time – Each substrate has a different cook time because each substrate varies in density and material. You will need to know the cook times for you substrate as is pertains to the imprint type, size and color.

Temperature – Our Octo wall tiles needed intense heat to cook but those were ceramic. Not all substrates are the same, You would not want to heat aluminum like our panels the same way. So it important to note what substrates you’re using.

Pressure – Pressure varies from substrate to substrate. Our tiles require much more pressure because they are made with ceramics whereas the Eco Tumbler does not need the same amount because it made with a lighter material.

sublimation color matching

Even with those variables under consideration color matching your ink will help you ensure you get accuracy in your prints. Below is a simple step-by-step of how to ensure those white substrate blanks show vibrant colors people asked for.

Color Profiling

  1. First you will need to select a software. We like Caldera. It has been around for years and they offer a great class if you become a member.
  2. Next you need to select the digital print type and software you use. Are you printing in CMYK or RGB?  The top 3 softwares are Photoshop, Ergosoft and Wasatch. Photoshop uses RGB, Ergosoft uses CMYK RIP and Wasatch uses CMYK Rip.
  3. Next you need to select your substrate. Make sure your substrate has the correct sublimation ORCA coating for imprints.Find a flat square version of your substrate, even if it’s mugs you will need a flat sample to test. We have tiles made up of the same materials and coating so it’s easy for us to test on.
  4. Using the square sample create your color swatch. Color swatches are grids of colors made on a selected substrate and allow you to scan your gamut capacity.
  5. Next you need scan your color swatch to see what your printer’s gamut capacity.
  6. Once your color is scanned you should have a color profile rendered by the software.

Experiment and test
The most important rules for color management in sublimation printing is testing, consistency and understanding the all the production variables that change color. If you’re doing bulk printing test a good number. We recommend at least 20 tests for color, clarity and the desired results that will ensure a set of standards you can stand by.

sublimation color matching

Know your process

Color matching and color correction is an art but there is no guarantee the color will be exact. Any one of the variables can change the outcome. Make sure you know your color matching process from monitors, and ink printers, to ink, sublimation paper and substrates. Test more than once on all new sublimation blanks.

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