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Why don't my monitor colors match the printed colors?

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[fa icon="pencil'] Posted by Lewan Solutions [fa icon="calendar"] April 29, 2016

Guest post by Kevin Ransom, Field Service Manager, Lewan Technology

One of the most frequently asked questions we hear from customers is:

"When I print a document, why doesn't the color look the same as it does on my monitor?"

While there are many possible reasons the screen and output don't match, or that the printed colors are off, two common, but often overlooked, causes are printer calibration and paper type.

I like to begin with this anecdote: When you walk into a major electronics store, they have dozens of flat screen TVs displayed on the wall, all playing the same video. If you stand there and look at the images on the different screens, you're going to notice the picture looks slightly different on each one. Brighter whites or deeper blacks, warmer or cooler tones, less or more contrast, etc. Every TV varies because of screen type, contrast ratio, color calibration, the room's lighting and even the data transmission hardware.


Your monitor is like the TVs. Screen type, computer type, application version, calibration settings, color profiles, driver types, and so on all have an impact on the display color and the printer output color.

Here are two causes and solutions you can try yourself before calling your service technician for advanced support.

Cause: Opposite Base Colors

A monitor starts in a black state and is illuminated with RGB (red, green and blue) to produce colors. Copiers and printers start with white paper and add CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) toner or ink to produce colors.


Each can produce its own gamut of colors, some of which the other simply cannot reproduce. The printer attempts to match a color it does not understand by using its software to calculate a best guess. The result can often be more “guess” than “best,” printing colors that are just plain off. If that is a heavily used color in your document, you’re probably not going to like the results.

monitor-rgb-vs-printer-cmyk_color.pngFrom GraphicPad

Solution: Calibration

Calibrating your monitor is the first step, but did you also check that your printer is calibrated to factory specifications? Xerox color devices equipped with Fiery print controllers have very solid results at factory settings, provided the media settings are also correct. You can find calibration instructions for your Xerox in our Knowledge Base. Pick your device from the list and search "calibration".

Which leads us to the second, and most overlooked cause of color issues, the paper itself. Even if your monitor and printer are both calibrated, a poor paper choice or wrong paper setting can throw your colors off.

Cause: Paper

Yes…paper. The media itself really does make a difference! An “all paper is the same” approach is setting your device up for failure and yourself up for disappointment. You will be very pleased with what good paper and correct paper calibration can do for your color output, but very disappointed with a low grade or wrong paper type.

If you’ve loaded media into a tray of any device capable of reproducing high-quality color images, you’ve encountered the long list of media type, weight and size setting selections. It might not seem critical to get the settings exactly right, especially if you’re unsure what the right settings are, but an incorrect selection can result in poor image quality, jamming and fusing problems.

Solution: Settings & Brand

If you’ve already purchased a quantity of paper, you can find the setting details you need on the side of the paper ream or box. You’ll need to know three things: paper type (is it glossy/coated, uncoated/plain, labels?), paper weight and paper size.


To optimize output even more, my suggestion is to research you media options a little further and do some testing:
  1. Buy 3-4 different brands of the same media type and weight. (Here are Xerox's recommended papers.)
  2. Set the machine to the correct paper type and weight settings.

Tip: If the media does not list a grams per square meter rating (for example: 200 GSM or 200 g/m2) I wouldn’t recommend using that paper. Absence of a GSM rating usually indicates the media is meant for offset printing and not rated for use in digital devices, which can significantly impact color and quality.

  1. Send a color test file to print on a page of each brand. (Be sure keep the exact same tray settings.)
  2. With each output side by side, look for variances in color quality, saturation and accuracy.

Chances are you will see at least slight, if not drastic, differences. From here, you’ll be able to pick the one you prefer and if it’s still not 100%, this is a great time to contact your print service provider and a technician can help you make further adjustments with more advanced monitor and printer calibration techniques.

If you're not already a Lewan customer, Contact Us to learn more about our printer leasing program with included maintenance and support to help with issues like this.

Topics: Managed Services, Xerox, How To Guide, Paper, Printers & Copiers, IT Solutions

Lewan Solutions
Written by Lewan Solutions

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