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How Do Printers Produce Accurate Colour?
When you think about it, full colour printing — hell, printing in general — is pretty impressive. At the touch of a button it’s possible to print an image, text or graphic that accurately mimics what you see on a computer screen, both in terms of size and shape, and colour and tone.
But just how do inkjet and laser printers reproduce accurate colours on a sheet of paper? Let’s find out — without getting too technical.
Creating Colour — How Printers Differ from Other Tech
To produce accurate colour that can be recognised, perceived and processed by the human eye, electronic equipment such as TVs, computer monitors and printers usea technical process called dithering. Dithering is a process whereby electronic devices produce colour by tightly and accurately positioning the primary colours in such a way that the full colour spectrum can be precisely reproduced on-screen or in print.
However,there is a key difference in the way both electronic monitors and standard inkjet and laser printers produce full colour imagery — and that’s all down tolight. Whilst electronic monitors produce a light source, printed documents reflect light — necessitating that colour be reproduced differently depending on the format.
To create colour, electronic monitors blend primary colour (RGB) phosphors, whilst printers use ink from the primary subtractive — cyan, magenta and yellow(CYM). This allows both computer monitors and printers to reproduce the entire colour spectrum from just three colours using the dithering process— which breaks a colour pixel into minute dots before filling each dotwith one of the colours listed above.
Colour Matching — From Screen to Paper
With us so far? Good, because that’s about as complicated as it gets. In this section, we’ll discuss the importance of colour matching, and highlight whysome printers produce less accurate colours than others.
Colour matching is the process by which the colours we see on a computer screen are reproduced on a sheet of paper. Without going into the nitty gritty of how printers accurately match on-screen colours, we will say that the process varies greatly in terms of quality, accuracy and precision — something which is dependent on the specific printer model, and never the monitor.
If,for instance you own a modern inkjet printer which produces full colour imagesu sing the CYMK (cyan, yellow, magenta and black) colour model, the machine will produce more accurate colour than older inkjet printers which only utilise CYM. Why? Contemporary inkjets use black as a way to mix more accurate colour, and without it, colours can appear significantly different to those displayed on screen.
Print Quality — Resolution Vs. Graduation
Accurate colour reproduction depends on two basic principals during the print process —the resolution, measured in dots per inch (dpi) and the levels of graduation that can be printed per dot.
Generally,the higher the resolution, the sharper a printed text document or image will appear. There is a trade-off here however — by increasing the resolution,you’ll effectively limit the levels of graduation, resulting in a slight loss in colour accuracy.
With this in mind, it’s important to strike the right balance between resolution and graduation — particularly when printing full colour images. By increasing the levels of graduation it’s possible to produce photographic quality prints,whilst increasing the resolution will help you achieve better all-round results when printing documents and images.
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