Why Do My Pictures Look Dull When I Print Them?

“Why do my pictures look dull when I print them?”


The answer to the above question is simple: because they are.


If you have been looking at your pictures on a luxurious piece of technology such as an iPhone or tablet, then you’ve been looking at their colours boosted by high luminosity and light. It is stunning how broad our colour scape expands with light (they even invented a whole new colour model to describe them!) There are not only more colours to look at but they’re brighter, more saturated, and hypnotisingly beautiful. Unfortunately, although the real world is beautiful too, inks and toner just can’t compare, and when sat side by side next to a digital screen they do look dull. It’s simply how they are.


But ‘why?’ you ask. The rest of the real world doesn’t look dull.

Why do my pictures look dull when I print them, RGB and CMYK comparison.


Well let me introduce you to the wonderful (and dying) world of printing. I’ve been lucky enough to have my professional experience at a commercial printers, picking up where they needed me to when the expert of the trade neared closer to retirement. It taught and showed me the real-world effects of colour theory at its finest. Now every good graphic designer should understand colour theory but not all of them get to see it in practice and how often everything can go wrong.


Would you believe that that Rotary’s official grey can print pink?


When you print pictures there are several important things to consider. All of these can affect how bright your colours will turn out, but with a little fine tuning the result should be a little more aligned with what you were expecting and not so dull.


Before Printing:

  1. Check your images in CMYK mode.
  • If possible, convert your images into CMYK; the colour mode for printing. Most digital screens work in RGB. This should give you a close preview into what your images might look like with less luminous colours.
  1. Check what material you are printing on?
  • Is it glossy, is it matte? Is it textured, or is it flat? Are you laminating it, adding foil or raised UV on top? All these different options can affect how much light is reflected in your printed colours. A gloss laminate will always look brighter than uncoated paper.
  1. Print some test samples.
  • The best and only way to ensure your prints come out right is to test it first. Not only can they look different between your screen to paper, but the printer itself can need calibrating too.


All good logos and branding should be designed with print colours in mind if you intend to break out beyond the digital sphere. Check out some of our designs and you will see that with the right planning, print will never look so dull. Unfortunately, on the other end of the spectrum, bad graphic designers will disregard thinking ahead and the future of your business may not look so bright.


Now if you’ve managed to read through my little blurb about colour, and believe me I could keep going, then hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two.
Maybe, in another spiel I’ll finally tell you what all those CMYK and RGB letters stand for (or you can read a little more about it here).


So ‘why do my pictures look dull when I print them?’ Because they are – but that’s not to say you can’t change them.

Ready to skyrocket your business?