The Problem With .PNGs And Printing

The Problem With .PNGs And Printing

What Is A .PNG File?

A .png file, or a “Portable Network Graphics” file is a file type that was designed primarily for web and screen use. The primary function of this file type is to allow for transparency at any level to be published to the web and used online. A .png is a great file type choice for a logo in your online shop or any other images that need to stand on their own, and adapt to any background.

PNG At A Glance

Stands For:

Portable Network Graphics

Best Uses:

  • Images with transparency or fading
  • Web images


  • Allows for background transparency
  • Displays different levels of opacity (completely see through to slightly faded)
  • Drawbacks: only compatible with RGB color profile

What Happens When We Print A .PNG?

We do accept .png files for print. However, there is a caveat. The main issue for printing a .png file is its inherent color profile. As we discussed above, .png files can only be saved in the RGB (red, green, blue) color profile. For the best color results and accuracy in printing t-shirts and other garments, we ask for images formatted in the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, key/black) profile.

Printers are almost always calibrated to print using the CMYK color profile. If you have ever had to buy ink, or opened up a printer, you will see the ink colors correspond to the C – cyan, M – magenta, Y – yellow, K – key (black) color profile. Printers speak a certain color language, and web images (RGB files) speak a different color language. They use different base colors to put together and create other colors.

The potential issue with using a .png image file for print is that the colors may be a little off since the printer has to interpret a different color language. As with any interpretation, sometimes things can get lost in translation. While the difference in color may not be easily noticed, a keen eye will be able to see variations.

The Take Away

If at all possible, choose a .psd or .pdf file type over a .png when creating images for garment printing*. Both .psd and .pdf file types will also accommodate for transparency, and will allow you to save the image in the preferred CYMK color profile. If you are having a design commissioned or made for you, it is important to share our image requirement with them. Be sure to ask the designer for a .psd file, or a .pdf file if the image requirements advise using a CMYK color profile.

If you have no choice other than to use a .png file, please expect some slight color variations between the print and your image, and also potentially between prints.

*Some products require different file types / color profiles. Make sure you check the specific image requirements for each product.

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