Colour Matching Bike Stickers in the Darkness

Today, December 21, is the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year amidst several months of darker days here in the Northern Hemisphere. But it’s not just the lack of daylight riding time that’s the problem for us.

Every day we are asked by our customers to accurately print decals that match bikes, logos, Pantone or RAL colours. So how do we do this and why is winter a problem?

The colours that we print on your bike, fork and shock decals appear differently under different lighting conditions and light sources. This is because what you see as colour is actually the reflection of light from the object you are looking at.

The colour temperature of light is measured in Kelvins. At one end of the scale we have warmer, redder colours (imagine a beautiful sunset) and as we move up the scale towards white, we have colder, bluer colours (like the headlamps on a modern car). The industry standard for matching printed materials is 5000K, which is equivalent to daylight in the morning or late afternoon. This colour temperature is a good middle ground for evaluating colour.

Colour Temperature Scale Kelvin

The problem is that during the winter in Sweden, where our HQ and design team is located, we only have 3-5 hours of useable daylight and this light can also become bluer when snow is on the ground or when the sky is clear. If we match colours in this type of light and then send them to someone living in Utah, the results will be visually different.

So how do we do it? 

Like any trade, it’s about having the right tools and knowing how to use them. One important tool to give us consistent lighting conditions is a daylight booth that produces light at a consistent 5000K. We can even put products or bike components in the booth that we are looking to match.

Fox Orange Pantone 021c
Fox 36 forks in the booth

Alongside the light booth, we use RAL and Pantone colour charts and we calibrate computer monitors and large-format printers to match these colours.

As a license holder for many of the most popular bicycle brands, Slik Graphics has unique access to paint samples and colour swatches so we can produce the best possible colour match for an OEM or better quality finish.

RockShox Paint Chips Swatches
Paint colour chips from RockShox

After we produce your bike decals, we do a final check of the colours in the light booth before they are shipped to ensure they arrive to you as dialled in as you are expecting.

Colour Matched Mountain Bike decals
Checking the colours before shipping

Reproducing colours is a massive subject and a whole industry in itself, but for the designers here at Slik Graphics, it simply means producing decals that match your bike and look good when you are out on the trails.


We’ll be writing more articles about what goes into making your decals, so please check back soon or follow us on social for regular updates.