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Help! My customer is color blind but doesn't know it!
I have a very good customer who usually wants everything in dark blues. No matter how dark we make it, it’s always "too bright." I've long suspected that he has some vision problem that is causing this, but he is not very receptive to anyone trying to tell him this.
I just received a request from him to redo something that was printed in 282 blue (almost black) but not to use the “bright blue” that was used before. I'm at my wits end. I'm considering printing it in black and telling him its dark blue! Now to my question: Is there a book, website, expert, etc. that I could consult to find an answer to what my customer’s problem might be?
My customer is a college professor, is well respected in the business community, well known in Nasdaq circles, etc. He is also a genuinely nice person, so I don't want to insult him or hurt his feelings, but I need to do something. The items we have printed for him look so drab and dark (from his direction) that it has got to be affecting his image. He is a very "facts and figures" kind of person so I think that if I could find a study or scientific reason to show that he perceives color inaccurately, he would be receptive to it.

Thanks for any help you can offer and keep up the good work.

R. H.

It is quite possible to ascertain someone’s color resolving capabilities. Your local optometrist probably has some of the color blindness tests like the Ishahara test for Color Blindness: those mildly psychedelic floating numbers that blend into the background if you can’t discern the subtle color shifts. It is highly scientific and readily measurable. In fact a lot of pre-press houses require new hires to submit to a color-blindness test as a basic pre-requisite for employment. It makes sense that someone in a color-sensitive workplace should be required to be able to see colors reasonably accurately. You can take a quick color blindness test at or

Most people think of color-blindness as being a very pronounced problem, like being unable to distinguish a red light from a green light. But most color limitations are not nearly so extreme. You have undoubtedly been through discussions of needing a “warmer” red or a “greener” blue. Our ability to define color accurately is perhaps an even greater problem than our ability to see it accurately. The receptors in the eye of every individual are slightly different, so it would not be a huge stretch to say that everyone is at least color-blind to some degree.

But there are a couple of potential problems in your specific case. Because color is subjective, your client undoubtedly knows what he likes to see, whether it’s what everyone else sees or not. You could probably show him through a color-blindness test that his perception is different from that of most people. However, you can’t make him “see” the way other people do. And there’s another problem: suppose he’s not color blind after all?

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at

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