Digital Colors Versus True Colors
16 August, 2017 by
Cummins Gordon

I see your true colors 

 Shining through 

 I see your true colors 

And that’s why I love you 

So don’t be afraid to let them show 

 Your true colors 

 True colors are beautiful, 

 Like a rainbow

--  lyrics to True Colors by Bill Steinburg and Tom Kelly  

Shopping online is wonderful, isn’t it? And it’s obviously an increasingly popular way to make your purchases. According to, 198 million U.S. consumers bought something online in the first quarter of 2014 alone. Not to mention browsing online to look at the beautiful, whimsical and unique items for your gift basket or food product line is fun! A note of caution, though: the color may not be completely accurate. The shade of green, for example, that shows on your computer, tablet or smartphone might be just a tad (or more) off from the actual product. So what looks like a perfect match when you compare the photo on your computer screen to the basket you hold in your hand might actually clash when the item arrives in the mail.


Why is that? The colors on the screen look so vivid, so clear and so real—how can they not also be true? The answer is that the color you see on the screen is of one kind, known as additive, while printed colors are of another kind, known as subtractive. The computer screen simply can’t mimic the exact shade or tone of a physical object’s color. In addition, colors may vary from screen to screen due to variations in brightness, resolution and color calibration.


Take Pantone 212C. Click HERE. Hot pink, soft pink, bright pink, rose? Until you see the pinkish product up close and personal, you’ll never really be sure.


Here’s a quick lesson on digital versus “true” (or print) color: Color systems differ based on the medium being used.

Subtractive: A painter has lots of paint to choose from and mixes color using the subtractive color method. He starts with white and if he keeps adding color he will end with black.

Additive: A digital media designer makes color by the additive color method. Colors are mixed by starting with black. As more color is added, the screen gets lighter and will eventually end in white. On a computer screen, percentages of red, blue and green light are added to generate color. The color spectrum has billions of colors and a computer monitor can display millions of those colors. A printer (even the best one available) can only produce about a thousand colors. So designers have had to develop a way to work with color that results in the most accuracy.


Through a lot of trial and error, designers have decided on a color simulation that will work in the majority of cases. The bottom line is: choosing colors from Pantone© palettes insures proper color rendering. Why is Pantone is the standard for print color quality? The company has developed the Pantone Matching System which is used in printing as well as paint, plastic and fabric manufacture. This system has become the way that different designers, manufacturers, and yes—gift basket designers—can determine what color is being referred to when they are not physically in the same place. Each Pantone color has an assigned number so that everybody knows what color is being used.


Does it matter, really, if the color is cooler or warmer? Vibrant or muted? A yellow-tinged green or a blue-tinged green? The field of color psychology says “Absolutely it matters, and we’ve got the research to prove it.” And in February of this year there was quite a to-do online about the actual color of a dress (blue and black, or gold and black?) and the dress debate went viral. So obviously a lot of people care about color. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide how important color is when you're making an online purchase.


One thing and one thing only—if color is crucial, order a real life sample. Then you can see with your own eyes and know for sure that the color is what you want. At Almac Imports, we’re a colorful bunch. We’ve been helping people from a broad cross-section of industries (gift basket suppliers, chocolate shops, supermarkets, bakeries, to name a few) find the products they need in the colors they want since 1963. If you want more information on digital colors versus print/true colors and need to ensure that you get the right colors for your gift basket supplies, Contact us today.

Cummins Gordon 16 August, 2017
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