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Skintones and Why They're so Hard to Print

Let me preface this by saying, I'm not an expert at colour or printing. But from personal experience, skin tones are just difficult to get right.

Over the history of printing, we've gotten pretty good at combining the colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black to print a whole lot of other colours. However, it seems that skin tones still elude us.

Of course, there's a whole range of skin tones and now we're starting to see more as greater diversity is being encouraged in models and stock photography. Both light and dark skin tones pose their own problems.  

One of the reasons why skin tones are so hard to get right is because we know exactly what they're supposed to look like. When the colour comes out too red or orange, we take note immediately. We inherently know what skin tone colours should look like because we see people all the time. Printers need to be calibrating the colours on their printers to avoid this, but some printers might not be doing this as regularly as they should because it takes valuable press time away from printing stuff that's more profitable.

Beyond just poor colour calibration, the choice of ink and saturation can affect skin tone colours. Some printers might cheap out and use non-genuine inks. These inks tend to be lower quality than genuine inks and can lead to washed-out colours. Some printers might favour speed over quality, and might reduce the number of passes they use when printing. This can also lead to washed-out colours.

So when you're looking to print a design that has skin tones in the design, make sure you're reaching out to a quality printer, one that'll take the steps to make sure everything looks good. Otherwise, the poor colours become easily noticeable and cheapen the look of your banner and your brand.