Accuracy of Online Color Samples

One of the most frequently repeated questions we receive is that about the accuracy of our online color chips. Frankly, the answer to this question can only be "it depends". While every effort has been made to assure the best impression of each color on-screen, the process of converting of a color sample - any sample - from the physical world to the digital world, then delivering it in a predictable and repeatable way to your computer is not an easy task!

If you are new to color issues, you may consider this simple illustration. The background of this page is white. Put up a white sheet of paper and hold it beside your computer display. Is it the same shade of white you see? Can you tell? Chances are that either you will notice a color tint on your monitor, or otherwise will find it extremely difficult to define how the screen color and the paper color relate to each other. This is because our impression of the "technically" identical color is fundamentally affected by luminance, light reflection, surrounding light color and other physical properties of the medium. If you like another vivid example of this, take any colorful digital photograph from your collection and print it twice on the same (color) printer, first using plain office paper and then using professional photo paper. The difference of color reproduction - using the same data, the same equipment and the same pigments - will still be striking!

A fact of life known very well to color professionals is that every form of image reproduction - be it through photography, scanning, computer displays, printing and so on - has an intrinsic distortion of color information. Go to any site devoted to digital still cameras and you will find just how much discussion there is about reds, greens, saturation, skin tones, white balance and so on! 

What does it have to do with FS color chips presented on your monitor? Quite simply, the color you're seeing has been affected by digital reproductions made to the original chip - and there are two of them. First, the the chip has been scanned (digitized) by us to produce its digital rendition. Secondly, it is being displayed to you by your very own computer screen. This means that there were two occasions on which colors were transferred from one medium to another, with inevitable distortions - hopefully fairly small, but far from insignificant!


Without going into details, we have put a great deal of effort in ensuring that the scans are consistent and reflect the original colors. Emphasis was put on consistency between the color chips, so that multicolor samples (see here for information about these) display proper balance between the different colors.

Note that some special categories of colors do not scan well at all, namely metallic and fluorescent ones, as their reflective properties cannot be reproduced digitally. Silver scans to greyish shades, and fluorescent orange becomes  just orange in digital form. A representative example of this is Fluorescent orange 38903.

Monitor display

Then there is an issue of how your monitor displays color. The short advice here is to make sure that your display is color-calibrated, or at least adjusted properly with regard to color temperature and gamma correction. These terms are discussed in detail in the accompanying article about display calibration.

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