how do I match my colour for printing in DTG?

Created by Lotte van Dijk, Modified on Sun, 19 Mar 2023 at 06:37 AM by Lotte van Dijk

Colour matching can be challenging in DTG as we are taking digital RGB formats and using RIP software to convert it to CMYK+W printing. Here are some things to know and tips on how to get the best results.

PMS, CMYK, RGB and Hex are common terms used to describe colour. Typically PMS and CMYK are used in professional printing while RGB and Hex are used on-screen. You don't use Pantone® colours on your website and you don't use RGB colours in your printing press. DTG falls a little in between as you upload digital images, typically in PNG which has an RGB colour profile, to print on a garment and when it is sent to the printer, the RIP (Raster Image Processing) software converts this to the number of dots the printer will print using CMYK + White. 

The RGB colour space is much larger than CMYK – it has a lot more information. When you convert a file from RGB to CMYK many colours go “out of gamut” meaning they can’t be reproduced exactly using just CMYK. The RIP will help compensate for out of gamut colours.

DTG colours, especially spot colours, may look duller than screen printed colours. This is because in DTG you mix Yellow and Magenta to make Red, where as in screen printing you are using Red ink. You can improve this by increasing the Hue Saturation in your design tool. DTG really shows its value in full colour images with a lot of colours and gradations.

Dead black is 0 levels of RGB. Any reading other than 0 means you will end up with a dark grey.
Dead white is 255 levels of RGB. Any other reading means you will put a small amount of colour in.

PMS (Pantone® Matching System) 

Pantone® colours are patented, standardised colour inks made by the Pantone company. The Pantone Color Matching System ensures that manufacturers all around the world can refer to the exact same colour and feel confident in their matching ability, despite never coming into direct contact with one another. The majority of Pantone colours are created using 13 base pigments plus black. A subset is available in CMYK but the majority are not. 

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black)

CMYK colour (also called four-colour process) is actually a method whereby a combination of tiny transparent dots of four ink colours: cyan, magenta, yellow and black are printed. Different combinations of large and small CMYK transparent dots overlap each other to create a wide spectrum of colours.

CMYK is a subtractive colour model. To obtain lighter colours, ink must be removed. That is, each layer of ink reduces the initial brightness to create the preferred colour (think of a rainbow when light passes through a prism). In inkjet printing, a Key (K) colour is added to create a purer black.




RGB (red, green, blue)

The most commonly used colour profile in the world of computers, TV screens and mobile devices is RGB. RGB is the process by which colours are rendered onscreen by using combinations of red, green and blue.

RGB is an additive colour model. When you mix fully saturated versions of all three colours (red, green and blue) together, you get pure white. When you remove all three colours completely, you get black.

HEX (hexadecimal colour)

Designers and developers use HEX colours in web design. A HEX colour is expressed as a six-digit combination of numbers and letters defined by its mix of red, green and blue (RGB). Basically, a HEX colour code is shorthand for its RGB values with a little conversion gymnastics in between.

An example of Pantone® colour numbering and Hex equivalent:


We recommend you order our colour chart t-shirt to visually match the colours you want in your print. (and no, Freddy the Teddy does not come with it!)



Monitor calibration

If you have not calibrated your screen to match your printer or to accurately represent your colour chart you may never be happy with your results (the colours on your screen may look very different to the printed result). For more details we recommend reading Adobe's blog on how to do this: Calibrating your monitor

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