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Why do colors look different in Procreate?

When working with digital art software like Procreate, artists often notice that colors can appear different on the digital canvas compared to real life. There are a few main reasons why this occurs:

Different Color Profiles

Procreate uses the RGB (red, green, blue) color model to display colors on your device screen. RGB mixes different levels of red, green, and blue light to create the colors you see. However, print materials like books or magazines use the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) color model which uses ink combinations to produce colors.

The RGB and CMYK color gamuts (or range of colors) are different. RGB can display brighter, more saturated colors than CMYK. So a color viewed on your screen in Procreate may look more vibrant compared to how it looks printed.

Screen Settings

The settings of your device’s screen like brightness, contrast, color temperature, etc. also impact how colors are displayed. For example, an iPhone and iPad may show slightly different color representations even when viewing the same Procreate canvas. This is because the screens have their own color profiles.

Things like Night Shift mode on iOS devices, which tints the screen more yellow/orange at night, will also cause colors to appear differently than in daylight. Your personal screen settings preferences can make colors vary.

Environmental Differences

The environment where you’re viewing the colors makes a difference too. For example, colors may appear darker or muted if you’re viewing your Procreate art indoors under yellow incandescent light bulbs. But sunlight outdoors brings out brighter, more accurate colors from the same digital piece.

Your surrounding conditions like bright versus dim lighting, sunlight versus shade, reflective surfaces, etc. can all impact the perception of color.

Human Perception

Another factor is simply human perception. Our eyes and brain can play tricks on how we see colors. Optical illusions demonstrate how our vision is subjective. Small differences between digital and real colors may be exaggerated in our minds.

Digital artists also get used to seeing their work on one device like an iPad or iPhone. So when the art is viewed on a different screen, it may look “off” just because we’re used to the colors appearing a certain way.

Tips for Managing Color Differences

Here are some tips for managing situations where your colors look different between Procreate and real-life:

  • Use a color calibration tool to ensure your device screen is displaying colors accurately.
  • Export using a wider color gamut like Adobe RGB if printing.
  • Soft proof your art by viewing under different lighting conditions.
  • Print color swatches to compare real versus on-screen colors.
  • View your art on different devices to see how colors change.
  • Get used to slight color shifts and focus more on the overall composition.


In summary, several factors can cause colors to appear different in Procreate compared to real-life. The use of RGB versus CMYK color spaces leads to inherent shifts. Screen settings, lighting conditions, and human perception also influence how we see colors. Digital artists should get in the habit of soft proofing under different environments and export using wider gamuts when printing to manage these color differences.

While colors may not be an exact match, the important thing is that your overall composition and artistic vision shine through across mediums. With some care taken to preview your art in multiple ways, you can feel confident that your Procreate creations will look stunning both digitally and in print.

The key is to focus more on expressing your unique artistic style rather than chasing color perfection. The beautiful art you make in Procreate is what matters most.

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