Below are some helpful tips to troubleshoot common CMYK printing problems. (CMYK is the acronym for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black.)

5 Common CMYK Printing Problems and Their Fixes

CMYK printing problems

Problem: My blues are turning purple.
Solution: To ensure your blue colors don’t turn purple, the values between Cyan and Magenta should be 30 points apart (or more).  Correct Example: C: 100%, M: 70%, Y: 10%, K: 10%.  If the cyan and magenta values are too close together blues may turn purple — even if it looks correct on your computer screen.

Problem: My gray colors aren’t printing neutral.
Solution: To keep your grays neutral and consistent throughout the print run, it’s best to create gray using only a screen of black.  Light gray can be accomplished using 10-30% black, medium grays can be achieved from 40-60% black and dark grays between 70-85% black.  Creating gray using all four colors (CMYK) opens the door to color variation with warm, cool or brownish gray tones. A slight shift on press toward magenta will make a pink-gray, any shift toward cyan will make a blue-gray and too much yellow will make a brown-gray.

Problem: My blacks have a blue/pink/yellow hue when printed.
Solution: To accomplish a deep black color (also known as Rich Black) all 4 colors are used. The exact formula for a neutral rich black is: C:60, M:40, Y:40 and K:100.  (Important Note: Don’t do C:100, M:100, Y:100, K:100, as this will just create a muddy looking job that won’t dry, because there’ll be too much ink on the sheet.)
If you alter the Rich Black values to something different than the standard Rich Black formula your blacks will no longer be neutral. The result can be black shade that has red, blue or a yellowish hue. Sometimes this is done intentionally so the black shade compliments other colors or photos in the design.

Problem: My black type is printing fuzzy.
Solution: For black type, keep it to 100% black only.  Don’t add in C, M or Y.  Adding these colors means that all 4 colors need to line up perfectly which is nearly impossible on fine type.  If the type is made up of CMYK, then one (or more) of these other colors can fall out of registration thereby creating fuzzy looking type.

Problem: My pictures are printing differently than they appear on my computer screen.
Solution: When designing your piece on the computer keep in mind that you are viewing everything in RGB (Red-Green-Blue).  The native state of all pictures is also RGB.  Nothing can print in RGB, it can only print in CMYK or with PMS colors.  Some colors viewed in RGB are not possible to achieve in CMYK, and vice versa. The best way to make sure your pictures print correctly is to (A) change the picture output to CMYK and do your color correction in CMYK mode & (B) ask to see a high-res hard copy color proof before printing to ensure your pictures will print correctly.

For more graphic design and color tips, please come by, call or email anytime. We’re happy to review your project and provide advice as needed.  You can reach us at 818-709-1220 or  We’re located in Chatsworth and serve many areas including: Los Angeles, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Burbank, Glendale and parts of Ventura County.