Choosing colors that work well on projectors


Question

When specifying colors for use in a software user interface, what's the best way to ensure that those colors will look acceptable on all common display technologies: CRT, LCD, and in particular projectors?

This topic comes up frequently during design reviews, where a work-in-progress piece of software is presented to an internal audience, and the initial reaction is "the color of that widget looks weird." The presenter then responds with "it looks fine on my laptop!"

Note that I'm not just concerned with the one or two projectors in our meeting rooms at the office, but projectors in general, as the colors also need to look acceptable when demoed in a sales presentation.

The software is a Java applet embedded in a website, if that matters. I believe our UI designers use Adobe Illustrator for most of their work.

Update: I'm not looking for 100% accurate color reproduction of the sort that motivates a full color managed workflow. I just want it to look "close enough" for lay people.

1
13
3/2/2011 1:28:00 AM

Accepted Answer

The short answer is that you can't reasonably ensure that colors are going to look good on all, or even a wide variety of, display devices.

The long answer is that this is possible but there are a number of caveats:

  • You need to invest in color-calibration devices and the truly good ones don't come cheap
  • For internal use, you would also need to strictly control lighting in the rooms you are reviewing
  • As soon as you release your product to anyone outside of the review team, like your customers, all of that work you put into it is for naught.

There are some battles that, really, just aren't worth fighting unless you have a clear business case that color management is core to your business.

UPDATE per OP's Edit:

Since there is such a wide variety of monitors and projectors out there, it is impossible give a range in the RGB gamut that will guarantee that those colors would look good in even half the cases. Even if there were, I'm sure your designers would balk at such a limitation.

11
3/2/2011 10:47:00 AM

Projectors are crap. It's not an issue of picking the right color, it's just an issue of projector technology being really crappy.


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