The proof is much darker than the image on my monitor. Why?

Customers are often unsettled when they hold a proof in their hands. “The proof of the picture is much darker than the picture on my monitor. Why is that so? And what do I do now?”

There are many possible reasons for a deviation between the proof and, for example, the monitor display:

  • The monitor is not calibrated
    Only calibrated monitors can accurately display color. When I buy a cheap monitor and connect it to my computer, I definitely can’t see any real color. As a rule of thumb, only a hardware-calibrated monitor has a chance for correct color.
  • The monitor is calibrated, but the colors look different
    A monitor below 1,000 Euro cannot usually be calibrated to good color representation for the standard color space ISOCoated V2, because it has a too small color gamut. Only real proof monitors are also designed and suitable for the display of proofable colors.
  • The proof is not viewed under D50 standard light
    Especially in winter the lighting conditions are often poor. And incandescent lamps, energy-saving lamps and conventional neon tubes only provide very poor colour reproduction. Without a D50 light source, a proof cannot be evaluated.
  • The color settings in the software are wrong
    Often the image editing software like Photoshop is simply installed and used without adjustments. The selected color profiles often do not correspond to the profiles used for proofing. Apple-Shift-K for Macintosh and Control-Shift-K for Windows show you your profile settings in Photoshop.

In general, no patent remedy can be given for the correct display of proofs for the monitor. However, if a proof is provided with UGRA/Fogra media wedge CMYK V3.0 and test report, the chances are high that it reproduces the required colors very precisely. If your monitor image does not correspond to the proof, the error usually lies with you. The list of causes above can help you in troubleshooting.

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Why monitor and paper don’t get along when it comes to color.

Colour is colour, you’d think. That’s right. But have you ever tried to explain the colour of your new car or your new red wallet to a friend on the phone? You will notice that human color recognition and the reproduction of the same in another medium is very difficult.

The same applies to computers – better: monitors, and printers – i.e.: laser printers, inkjet printers or newspaper printing or offset brochure printing.

Why is the red on a monitor different from exactly the same red printed on paper? It’s simple: put the paper in front of the monitor. The two shades of red are exactly the same. Like this. And now you’re completely darkening the room. What do you see? The red on the monitor is still red. And exactly the same red on paper? This is black now. Why is that? Very simple:

Translated with

A monitor adds light, i.e. spectral components, to the existing ambient light. If you see red on a monitor, it is because the monitor actively emits red light.

And now the paper: When do you see red on paper? Exactly when white light falls on the paper, for example through a window or a lamp. And when do you see the color red on paper?

When white light falls on the paper and the paper extracts the non-red spectral components from the white light and reflects the red light. That’s when you see the color red.

One colour, two completely different ways of production. And this is exactly where the color calibration and the proof start. The strategy? Fairs. And this under fixed conditions and not with the human eye, but with “incorruptible” technology.

Put simply, a monitor calibration device can measure your monitor and see exactly “how much” color your monitor can display, and “how wrong” your monitor can display color. And if your computer knows that, it can correct the monitor.

Another measuring device can emit neutral white light onto a paper and measure the reflected color. Depending on the printing process and paper, the ink looks completely different, but the meter again sees “how much” ink the print can represent and “how wrong” the print represents ink. And if your computer knows this, it can correct it. And:

If the computer knows the color representation of the monitor and printer, it can correct and adjust the representation so that both correspond to the same color. Of course, this only works if the color and brightness of the light that illuminates the paper is also known and standardized.

And how does the proof work? Very simple:
If a computer also knows that the final printed product is to be printed in offset on an image printing paper, and it knows the colour representation of this printing process, then it can simulate this on a monitor and on an inkjet printer.

On the monitor, this color-accurate representation is a so-called “soft proof”, the color-accurate preview of the subsequent print on the inkjet printer is called “Proof” or “Contract Proof”.

This inkjet printing must be very precise and meet the highest demands in gamut and color simulation. And since the image processing technology, color matching calculation and measuring technology behind it is not very cheap, proofs are still mostly “expensive” inkjet prints. Due to new printing systems and inexpensive and better measuring technology, however, prices have also fallen significantly here in recent years.

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