Shift Happens

By Mary Schilling / Published:

Have you ever received a pdf file which called for bright red or a blue shade, but didn’t print correctly with colors visually different from what the customer was targeting? Color shift occurs for many reasons, from visual, emotional, lighting, or a product of the workflow. For these reasons, the hue (color), value (lightness/darkness) or intensity (saturation) may change for a particular color. Shift can happen from paper to paper or from device to device. It can even happen to the same color printed in different areas on the same page in certain conditions. Color shift is any change which is unexpected and doesn’t meet customer expectations.

There are many factors that can cause color shift along the process from design to print, and setting the proper expectation and tolerances up front is critical. Sometimes it is out of your control like paper differences, reproducible gamut or the pattern of the design element, but others you may have better control by understanding your workflow processes better.

It’s important to understand the color space and color conversion properties of your printing equipment or RIP and how they interact with your design files. It’s also important to understand how printed colors react to lighting and surrounding colors so you can clearly communicate to your customer.

Inkjet is different than all the other processes out there. Each manufacturer approaches their offering uniquely, from inkjet heads, ink chemistry, paper treatment, drying, workflow and media. Each has its own signature of what colors it can reproduce accurately. As the market evolves, the manufacturers are modifying and improving their solutions to compete with traditional analog technologies such as conventional offset, flexo, screen and pad print industries. This path of innovation creates a moving target for printers as well as their customers to understand where inkjet compares to the quality of their traditional technologies.

Join us through this series where we will tackle color expectations all the way through the workflow and print process, highlighting areas which can affect color.

Regardless of your inkjet process, Color Shift Happens.

About the Author

Mary Schilling


Mary Schilling writes about technical inkjet industry articles, provides RIP and workflow training, manages print quality analysis evaluation, ink management and color management for OEM’s and end users for pre and post machine installs. Mary Schilling consults with paper mills, fluid and inkjet machinery suppliers on how to improve color and print quality for high speed and industrial inkjet involving paper, plastics, metal, fabric and glass with UV and aqueous inkjet fluids. This experience led her to receive Innovator of the Year awards from the Flexographic Technical Association and from Xplor International for her efforts in closing the gap between inkjet printing for document, and digital corrugated packaging. She is the owner of Schilling Inkjet Consulting, Published Author and Certified ColorGate Color Trainer and Distributor. Her latest published works can be found

Leave a Comment