Colour Matching for Canva Designers

Colour Matching for Canva Designers
Written by: Jo Petzer
Category: Canva | Design Tips
Are you struggling to get your Canva design colors to print out correctly? Colour Matching for Canva designers can be confusing and frustrating but keep reading for solutions plus a way to make sure your colours stay consistent.

Are you struggling to get your Canva design colors to print out correctly? You’re not alone. Colour-matching for Canva designers can be confusing and frustrating.
Before we take a deep-dive into color configuration in your designs, think about these facts …

  • Different colors will show differently on every different screen. No two screens will show the same color.
  • How you see color on-screen depends on the the screen calibration, the program or app you’re using to view the color, lighting you’re in, and the way your eyes view different colors.
  • How color prints depends on the color profile used, the printing machine used, the printing method, the ink quality, the paper texture, tint and weight, and the humidity levels at the time of printing.

With so many variables, how can we ever expect to get our designs to print out in the correct colors?

While our colors may never be 100% perfect, there are ways to get them as close as possible to what you (or your clients) want.

Colour matching for Canva designers is about to change. Let’s start by getting to know the different color profiles and how printing works so that you can understand the process of colour-matching for your designs. While there are hundreds of different color profiles we will be looking at just 4 of them, and learning more about just 2.

RGB color

RGB (red, green blue) colors are for on-screen graphics (like a computer or TV). They are made of light and are bright and luminous (think of a prism or a rainbow) because of the screen’s backlighting. There are over 16 million different RGB colors combos.

This is the exact reason that the lovely bright colors you’re creating your Canva designs with print out darker and duller. Ink colors only have 16 000 different combos so there is a large spectrum of on-screen colors that can’t be reproduced in standard ink profiles.

RGB colors are expressed in a series of 8-bit channel numbers (you can Google more on this if you’re interested in the science), that displays as 3 sets of numbers from one number to 3 numbers per set. For example the RGB ‘code’ for magenta is: 236.38.143. The highest concentration (236) is of red, the next is of blue (143), and with a tiny bit of green (38).

HEX color

These are the same as RGB colors. ‘Hexadecimal’ (aka HEX) is just the coded version of the color in computer language (HTML) that will tell the program you’re using to display that specific color. A hex color code is made up of 3 sets of 2 digits. The first 2 digits represent red, the next two, green, and the last two blue (ie. RRGGBB).

For example the HEX ‘code’ for magenta is: #EC268F.

Canva displays RGB color in HEX codes in your designs.

CMYK color

Also known as ‘Process’ color, this is the standard color profile for most printing formats. Instead of being mixed from ‘light’ like RGB color is, CMYK color is mixed from ink. 4 different inks to be specific: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. The letter K is used for black because in the past, it was the main color that is printed first to use as a guide for lining up the other colors – it was called the Key color (K).

CMYK colors are expressed in 4 sets of 2 digits, each one showing the percentage of the color.

e.g. Magenta is expressed as: (i.e.. 0% blue, 100% magenta, 0% yellow, 0% black). You can experiment with this process yourself using the same 4 paint colors. It’s similar to mixing the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) like you may have done in art class, to create your own color wheel.

If you want a pure orange color in CMYK, then you’ll use (0% cyan and black, and 50% each of magenta and yellow).

Not so long ago (up to the 2000s even), most print operators would actually mix up their own inks from those 4 colors and then put the inks onto the press. They would print one color at a time (this is a whole other topic you can research if you want). Nowadays, digital printing machines use powdered toner or ink, that automatically mix up the colors

There are only about 16 thousand different CMYK color combinations. Compare this to the 16 million RGB color combos and you’ll understand why so many of your on-screen colors don’t print out correctly.

Before we learn the solution to this annoying issue, I just want to touch on Pantones®.

PANTONE®  color

I see so many designers focusing on Pantone® colors in their branding projects. Don’t do it. Here’s why. Pantone is a specific solid ink color. In other words, each Pantone® ink color comes in it’s own tin, or is specially mixed using the Pantone® Matching System. Pantone® colors need to be printed on a big printing press. This means that printing small quantities (anything less than 5000 units, sometimes more) work out very expensive when printed on a press because of the set-up process.

Digital printers using CMYK color, and that allow smaller print runs, may claim to print Pantone equivalent color but the truth is they aren’t always accurate. Pantone® come in a huge range including neon and metallic colors – neither of which can be matched using CMYK inks.

Unless you or your client is going to be printing large quantities, don’t use Pantone for your primary brand colors. Always set your brand palette in CMYK, THEN match your CMYK colors to Pantones®, only if your client needs them, though.

Solving your Canva color problems

Now that you have a good idea of how print colors work, how can you get your Canva designs to print out the right colors that your client wants to see?

How many times has your client signed-off a digital proof on-screen and then rejected the finished printed order because of the color difference? And you end up losing money. I see it happening all the time.

The solution is super-simple and works very well. Here’s how to fix it.

Create your own printed color swatches.

You may or may not know that printed color swatch booklets are really expensive if you buy them online (thousands of $s). CMYK color guides are also not cheap. But there’s no reason why you can’t create your own. Actually, this is even better because you can print them out via your own office printer or printing company – the one where you do all your printing.

When you print out your own color swatch cards, you can use them to show your clients the different color options for their brand palette or other designs. They can choose the colors they prefer from the swatch. From there you can input the Hex code into your Canva designs and they will print out correctly.

One thing to bear in mind, though, is that (at the time of writing this), Canva does not out put RGB colors to CMYK colors very well. This means that if you’re downloading your design as a print pdf and you select CMYK color, the printed item color isn’t going to be a good match. Your printer will create a better match from RGB to CMYK so it’s better to create your print file in RGB and let your printer convert it for you. It sounds counter-productive, but just trust me on this. When Canva updates their color matching quality, I’ll update this article.

If you don’t want to, or don’t have the time to create your own color swatches, I have some good news. I’v made one for you that you can just download and print out. Woohoo! There are 2 ways to use it.

Way 1: Print out the PDF as-is via your office printer or printing company. Then cut out the individual cards (cut marks are included), pin them together and use.
Way 2: Open the Canva template you’ll also get, change the colors to your preferred colors, then print that out to use. Cut it up and clip together.

Try to keep your printed swatches in a box or envelope so the colors don’t fade in the light. Also, bear in mind that the printed colors may change over time if your printing machine ink or toner levels drop, or if your printing company gets a new printer or uses different inks. You should print out a new swatch every 6 to 12 months to make sure that the colors are current with the printer you’re using.

Get my printable color swatch template for Canva here.

I hope you found this short lesson on color for print useful, and that it helps you to create the best, most color-accurate Canva designs for your business and your clients.


Article (c) copyright 2022 – Jo Petzer

Follow me on Instagram to keep up to date on new products and creative ways to use my mockups.

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop