Why do colors look different on different computers?

Have you ever gone into an electronics store and looked at the wall filled with different televisions? Different models, sizes, manufacturers, different technologies – all tuned to the same station for demonstration purposes. You may even notice two televisions, made by the SAME manufacturer with the SAME exact specifications, right next to each other. I will bet you that NONE of those sets will display their colors 100% exact the same as one another. The same is true for images viewed on a computer screen.

Different screens on different computers, using different operating systems (such as Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, etc) and even different web browsers (even if they are used on the same computer) all have different color characteristics. Even if you were looking at the same image on two identically configured computers, who’s to say their respective brightness and contrast settings would be the same? What about the lighting in the room itself? All of these factors affect how you perceive the colors within the image.  It’s just about impossible to get a color to look exactly the same on every single screen. This is just a sad but real fact of life that web designers (and clients) need to deal with.

You can get much more consistent results by calibrating your display by eye or installing special software on your computer, but this will only serve to improve YOUR situation — the colors seen by OTHER  viewers will still be different (however slightly) to what you see.

This is why when we deliver files to our clients for use in print projects (such as Logo Design) we provide them as CMYK files, which provides much more consistent results when printed. However, the colors will still look different when viewed on different screens. We recommend clients view their colors in a swatch book such as the Pantone Matching System before getting their project printed. Bear in bear that even in the world of print, colors can vary depending on the stock of paper printed on as well as the method used for printing the  final piece.

For picking a color for onscreen purposes, consider using the Bower Web Solutions Color Picker (www.bowerwebsolutions.com/colorpicker). Below is a video tutorial on how to use our online color picker.

Have a question? Please feel free to leave a comment or call us at 973-962-1932.